Stepping up sheriff’s staff is right move


On Friday afternoon a vehicle was shot at by a passing motorist on Highway 61 northbound just near North Fork Road. No one was hurt in the incident.

Whether it was a random act of violence will be sorted out by the investigation that’s being conducted by the sheriff’s department. County deputies have proven to be pretty persistent and have been making arrests, filling up our jail, and putting forth a special effort on making our roads safer.

At a workshop following Tuesday’s regular meeting of the Lee County Board of Supervisors, Sheriff Stacy Weber asked supervisors to beef up the jail staff. The current staff is one to two officers shorter than most county’s in southeast Iowa, yet our jail holds sometimes as much as three times as many inmates.

The county is carrying a balance of about $10 million according to the last budget and, as important as it is to be frugal with taxpayer money, the safety and security…and reputation of the county as far as crime deterrence is just as important, if not more, to the people who live, work, and play here.

Something could be said as well to adding street deputies to the staff, too. There are times when two deputies are patrolling the whole county.

This guy on Friday pulls out a handgun and fires at a car and the chase is on. Fort Madison Police helped try to locate the vehicle, but to no avail. More officers patrolling would certainly have increased the odds of finding the suspect and the vehicle he was riding in. There are no guarantees as people can be pretty resourceful when they are eluding the police.

But it points to a picture. Burlington is dealing with shootings almost on a weekly basis and that criminal element is going to find its way south, if it hasn’t already. Our ability to respond quickly and effectively surely correlates to our ability to solve crimes and punish criminals.

A good look needs to be taken at the number of deputies on the streets. We just added one in the form of a K9, Gunner. Another K9 unit will be incorporated in Lee County before the end of the year. These, it must be reminded, have cost the taxpayers $0. Two needed additions to the sheriff’s department because the public saw the need and stepped up to the plate to pay for it.

It must be said that the supervisors have been very open to the needs of the sheriff’s department and jail operations and have indicated they want to make sure those people have the tools and resources they need to keep residents safe.

About four weeks ago there was a shooting in Fort Madison. Again, no one was hurt but whether that was luck or intent is of little consequence to those of us going for a drive or walk on our city sidewalks and county roads. A strong look needs to be taken by not only the county, but city leaders as well, at violent criminal data and make a determination as to whether or not we are staffed appropriately.

Police Chief Tim Sittig would probably be open to a few more officers, and Fire Chief Joey Herren would be open to a few more firefighters, and we could use more employees in the water, street and parks departments. The story is the same within all departments. But when it comes to idiots running around without regard for public safety, that’s of paramount importance.

Elected officials need to look with wide-eyes at what’s happening in our communities and the communities around us. The best show of force is a show of force.  Become a nuisance to them before they become a nuisance to us.

Weber said Friday after the shooting incident, that Lee County isn’t going to stand for that type of criminal activity.

“We’re gonna push back…hard.”

And we need to have his back.

And speaking of having people’s back, Head Coach Tony Shiffman and the Hounds had the back of Caleb Gehle, a senior who’s been part of the Bloodhound football team all year on the sidelines. Gehle has to wear leg braces and is regularly confined to a walker or wheelchair, but on Friday, he suited up and ran in a two-point conversion, under his own power, for the Hounds with an assist from the Washington coaching staff and players. I think I’ll root for the Demons in the playoffs next week.

But that’s Beside the Point.

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