The council is considering several options, but the Public Safety Committee has recommended an option that eliminates the Police Department. Council member Dr. Cody Hoefert says they have looked at several options including a full 3-man department, some shared enforcement options similar to what is now in place, and turning all law enforcement over to the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office. He says that financially, the option that made the most sense was the elimination of the Police Department and contracting with the Sheriff’s Office for all law enforcement.
If that option is selected, Lyon County Sheriff Stewart Vander Stoep says the Sheriff’s Department would guarantee an average of 80 hours per week that officers would be working in Rock Rapids. This would include all investigations and patrol hours. During the other hours if a call or assistance were needed in Rock Rapids the officer that is covering the county would come into town and take care of the situation. The Sheriff says he would provide a monthly report on the activity in Rock Rapids which would include the hours spent in town, the number of citations issued, and the number of incidents that were handled. The sheriff says he would also assign more deputies to Rock Rapids to help with Heritage Days and parades.
Three options were shown to the council at Monday night’s meeting.
The first option would be to stay the same with one city officer. Expenses would include salary and benefits as well as training of the new officer. Because the city police car is in need of replacement, the first year it would require a new car and equipment too. The annual cost for those expenses and a contract with the Sheriff’s Office to handle the hours that the officer is not working would be $262,558. The Rock Rapids Police Officer would be working all night hours, according to the contract.
The second option would be eliminating the Police Department, with two full-time Lyon County Deputies living in and serving Rock Rapids from 7 AM, past midnight, to 2:30 AM, and other deputies filling the gaps. This option is estimated to cost $333,520.
The third option also eliminates the Police Department and is the one suggested by the committee. It would involve at least one county deputy dedicated to Rock Rapids, and other deputies filling the gaps for a total of 80 hours of Rock Rapids coverage per week. The other 88 hours would be handled by county deputies who may or may not be in town and may have to come from another part of the county if there were an incident that happened during hours that are not covered. The Rock Rapids Deputy would live in Rock Rapids, work basically only in Rock Rapids, and would be a member of the community. That option is projected to cost $243,520, which would include the cost of the patrol cars and officer certification.
Public Safety Committee members Eric Borman and Dr. Hoefert say that not only is this option the least expensive by $20,000; there would likely be fewer communication and management issues since law officers would be from one department instead of two, and there would be less liability. Hoefert and Borman say that this option could also be used as a starting point, with the addition of hours and personnel. The addition of coverage and personnel would be at an added cost.
Hoefert says the council tabled making a decision at least until the next council meeting on February 10th so that the public could have a chance to comment.
The Lyon County Board of Supervisors would also have to approve any contract with the City of Rock Rapids for law enforcement services.
Borman and Hoefert encourage Rock Rapids citizens to talk to them and let them know their opinion on the issue, or contact them for more information.