Let the sheriff patrol


Art Cullen

When we heard that the Sioux Rapids police chief, Tim Porter, made a stupid remark on social media about plowing through protesters, and later apologized, the familiar question returned to our minds. Why is there a police department in a place like Sioux Rapids, pop. 754, where the biggest problem is speeding on Hwy. 71 through town?

Crime really isn’t a problem in Sioux Rapids or Newell. In fact, it’s a selling point. You can leave the car door unlocked in Sioux Rapids without getting cleaned out. Yet so many tiny towns support a police department just because. People sort of expect it. It gives you the feeling that emergency help is right there, and it is controlled by the mayor. But the emergency help you really need, like ambulance and fire, are already there. A sheriff’s deputy is minutes away.

A few years ago Alta lost its police chief, which gave the city council pause to consider whether they really needed one. The council concluded that it did not, and contracted for patrol services from the Buena Vista County Sheriff’s Office. Everything has worked out well for a community twice the size of Sioux Rapids or Newell. Likewise, Marathon and Albert City for many years have relied on patrol services from the sheriff’s office with no big complaint.

Storm Lake is the only city in Buena Vista County that actually needs a police department.

Budgets are always challenged. They are being battered by the coronavirus pandemic. The sheriff’s office will be challenged, as will communities supporting police departments. Pay is a constant challenge. Storm Lake has had a hard time hanging on to experienced officers. It is difficult for rural communities to attract law enforcement professionals, and it is almost impossible for them to keep up with constant demand for training. Comments by the Sioux Rapids police chief indicate that we are not attracting the best and brightest to small police forces. In this day and age, we need more professional police operations. The sheriff’s office has the management, training and human resources capacity to serve our communities better. We should make maximum and efficient use of county law enforcement to save money and enhance professionalism.

The sheriff, board of supervisors and mayors should have a discussion about how we can provide better law enforcement without sacrificing local public safety in the least. This is the perfect time.


Nursing homes shine

One of the great stories in this coronavirus pandemic is the tremendous job nursing homes have done in keeping the disease out. Lately, 16 cases cropped up when there had been none as the infection rate appeared to peak in Buena Vista County. Nursing homes and assisted living centers immediately isolated from outside visitors, necessarily but sadly, and the state did manage to send out tests several weeks ago for health care workers and nursing home residents. Testing matters.

Because there was almost no testing and isolation of food processing workers until the past couple weeks, the virus got a foothold and ballooned. Nursing home employees  married to food processing employees who might have been asymptomatic without testing started to test positive themselves. Fortunately, by all accounts nursing home management has been hawking employees with repeat testing, isolating vulnerable staff from Covid patients in hospice, and giving all employees full protective gear from the start. There are lessons here for the food processing industry.

We’re grateful that these facilities have been so conscientious in protecting their employees and our most vulnerable neighbors.

It also is important not to lose sight of the many acts of kindness and compassion we have witnessed since this sorry episode began months ago. People making masks for essential workers, people raising money for poor families bearing tons of medical expenses from a loved one’s death, people praying for those brave workers in the meatpacking plants trying to feed their families while not knowing what lurks around them. People are pulling together and looking out for each other in new and unique ways, holding signs outside the window of grandma quarantined inside. We see the gestures and it reminds us why we live here.

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