BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Karl Judd wasn’t ready to retire from the Fort Madison Police Department. So he didn’t.
Iowa code mandates retirement at age 65 in Iowa from certain duties for police and fire fighters, but allows officers to continue work in different capacities.
Due to some creativity thinking at the Fort Madison Police Department, Judd now finds himself, at age 66, in a new position as a Community Service Officer, a full-time restricted duty position aimed at handling city code violations within the police and building departments.
Judd said he’s thrilled with the position because just wasn’t ready to step aside yet.
“I just wasn’t ready for retirement yet. I don’t have desire to spend my day fishing – although I love to fish.”
“This is a new concept and it’s not really a trial so to speak as much as it is a work in progress to see what the position does,” Judd said.
The FMPD veteran said his inclination for the position will be to help residents navigate city code in a “neighborly fashion”.
He said citations are part of his initial job description, but he’d rather that be the exception and not the norm.
According to a policy for the position provided by Fort Madison Police Chief Mark Rohloff, the CSO will perform general city code enforcement duties as necessary for the safety, maintenance and good order of the community with assignments sourced from both the city police and zoning administrations.
The position is a non-sworn position that can issue municipal citations and summons and exercise abatement orders, impound animals and property pursuant to all city, and state legal authority. The position does not have authority to detail, arrest or take persons into physical custody.
Rohloff said the concept of a Community Service officer is not unique.
Other cities have employed persons with non-traditional police authority interrelated with multiple departments that specifically dealt with chronic problems.
Rohloff said the city’s looking for more a visible change rather than statistics to determine the effectiveness of the new position.
“Officer Judd will supply a face to the city code enforcement effort, and will be able to interact with residents to resolve problems,” Rohloff said.
“He’s definitely the right man for the job and relates well with people.
“It all came down to focusing our attention and manpower efficiently without actually increase manhours on the city budget. Between the City Manager, Building Director and myself, we collectively knew this had to be done.”
Judd said although he technically can’t arrest anyone, he can facilitate an arrest when the situation is warranted.
“Someone I had arrested in the past was joking with me that I couldn’t arrest him anymore. and I said, “well technically you’re right, but you’re gonna get arrested. I’m just not going to have to do the paperwork,” he said with a laugh.
But he said the focus of the position will be to support the community, it’s residents, and it’s animals.
Judd said he will be able to focus on things that allow the police officers more time to focus on the broader protection and service to the community.
“The main idea here is to make Fort Madison a better place for the people and the animals by enforcing city code,” he said.
“I guess I want to emphasize that when enforcing the city code, whenever possible, my first inclination is going to be to try and work it out in a neighborly way rather than issuing citations. Sometimes writing a citation maybe the first thing that happens, but in the majority that won’t be the case.”
In cases where a dog gets out and bites someone or another animal, a citation will probably happen right away, Judd said. But he cited an example from Wednesday where a dog was loose, probably due to being scared by the thunder. He recovered the animal, which was tagged, had its rabies vaccination tag, and had another tag with identification on it.
“That person got their dog back immediately with no citation. The dog’s safe, the people are happy and the dog is happy, all because that person complied with city animal codes, had a rabies vaccination and a tag that helped us return it home.”
Judd did say having animals chipped is an even better way to keep them safe. He carries a code reader with him and sometimes collars can get lost when animals find away to escape a chain or fence.
But animal control won’t be the only thing the CSO gets involved in, despite his passion for the animals. He, along with his wife, have been volunteers walking dogs at PAW Animal Shelter for more than 15 years.
Judd will be working with city Building Director Doug Krogmeier to help with those city codes as well. Rudd clarified the position has not been created to be a revenue generator for the city.
“We’ve already heard those complaints about it being a position to increase revenue for the city. No… that’s not the idea here.”
He said intruding on people’s private lives is nothing he’s a fan of, but said living in a city with close neighbors is a lot different than living on a homestead out in the country.
“I’m a guy that is for less government not more government. I believe in as little intrusion of government into people’s lives as possible,” Judd said.
“But at the same time we live close together in a city and we have to be good neighbors. And the codes of Fort Madison are designed to ensure that people are good neighbors.”
“When people start talking about stuff on their property, somehow they think they can do whatever they want on their property- and when possible I would agree with all that. But for instance, would you want your neighbor running a junk yard out of his property with all the bad things that goes with it? It’s one thing when you live out in the county with 50 acres, but another when you live on a city lot.”
Krogmeier said most of the city’s dilapidated structure issues will be sorted out through the court system and not take up a lot of Judd’s time.
“His piece will be more vehicles and private property that is wrecked or dilapidated. Or nuisances where we go to show up to deal with the nuisance and people are upset. I try to go and he can go now too. We show they were on the list, you had this much time, and these are the items that need cleaned up.
Krogmeier said Judd will help with the public relations part of those issues.
“Contractors have his number and they can call him. This will be a great window. He can deal with animals, tag vehicles on streets, but also things on private property and nuisances. This should benefit the city greatly,” Krogmeier said.
Judd said Fort Madison isn’t unique in having nuisance codes on the books. In fact, Judd said Fort Madison’s codes have historically been some of the most relaxed codes you will see.
“You won’t go into the streets of Capistrano, California and see junk cars sitting on the side of the streets.”