BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
LEE COUNTY – A change in the training structure for jail staff at counties in southern Iowa could lead to increased costs for those counties.
A group of 13 southern Iowa county sheriff’s, including Lee County Sheriff Stacy Weber, penned a letter to the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy director Judy Bradshaw on August 10, expressing concern about the possibility of eliminating regional training with the South Iowa Area Crime Commission.
The letter is part of an amended agenda for Tuesday’s Lee County Board of Supervisors.
The commission provides on-site training for county jail correctional officers in addition to a number of other functions including, but not limited to, transportation of offenders and people with mental health issues that aren’t incarcerated, as well assistance moving juvenile offenders to the juvenile detention center in Montrose.
“If the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy continues to not allow us to utilize the SIACC for training that’ll be a tremendous burden on us. We can host a training with SIACC at our offices and they will travel to us,” said Lee County Sheriff Stacy Weber on Monday. “I can put 15 COs in this thing and it doesn’t cost us anything other than the time. But if we gotta load everybody up and haul them to Des Moines…that’s a driver, an overnight stay, meals and potential overtime. It would be huge.”
Weber said the training classes put on by the commission were quality classes and he contacted the ILEA himself to let them know the impacts of doing away with the SIACC training.
“I contacted them myself and told them that I was going to sign that letter. I encouraged the assistant director to attend one of the SIACC classes and see for themselves how good they were,” Weber said. “We’re not talking about thousands of dollars here, we’re talking tens of thousands and potentially hundreds of thousands going forward. I just don’t have that in my budget.”
Weber said eliminating the commission training also subjects smaller jails and communities, as well as larger jails and communities, to the same training which may not be in everyone’s best interests.
“We’ve probably got a jail that is in the top 10 as far as staff and inmate numbers in the state. But Linn County, for example, is bigger than Lee County and one class for all counties may not be suitable for each county.” Weber said.
Phone calls and messages to the commission and to the academy went unreturned on Monday.
Weber said he understands that the academy has a lot to handle, but reducing the role of the commission is not the right position to take.
“They want us to go back to training with ILEA. They’re trying to regenerate themselves up there too, and they have a lot to look after, but to me there not thinking forward,” Weber said.
“The one-on-ones with SIACC are tremendous. If it’s a setting like in our building, our staff will have more interaction with the teachers and be more comfortable asking questions. Instead of being in a huge room with people from all over the place. To me it’s a no-brainer.
In the letter, the sheriffs wrote in part, “You can understand our surprise and displeasure with this news because we utilize these jail schools not only for their exceptional training, but for the monetary value they bring to our training budgets. The expenses incurred from sending our staff to non-Crime Commission schools adds up quickly…”
The group asked the academy to reconsider the move and to continue to utilize the 28E agreement in place with commission.
The academy is currently looking at moving their location due to air quality issues at the current facility at Camp Dodge in Johnston, Iowa. Officials said cleanups have rendered the air safe, but officials at the academy are still looking for a move.