- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 13, 2015

POLK CITY, Iowa (AP) - Some residents of Polk City are organizing to preserve the community’s police department as officials explore contracting with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

The Des Moines Register (https://dmreg.co/1Ozf3KB ) reports a petition backing the police department is circulating. Signs supporting police are posted throughout the city about 15 miles north of Des Moines.

The city’s longtime police chief retired in September, and a committee was formed to look into the future of the department. One option under consideration is closing it and contracting with the sheriff’s office.

Mayor Jason Morse said officials are considering closing the police department in part because of a personnel complaint filed by a Polk City police officer.

“It brought up some concerns we needed to address,” Morse said. He refused to elaborate on the complaint.

Morse said residents’ concerns about the police department are premature and are mostly based on inaccurate information. He said officials are “at step one” of the process.

“This is in its infancy,” Morse said.

The committee includes Morse, two City Council members and two city employees. It will take a look at how the department operates and make recommendations to the City Council.

Morse said several public meetings will be held. The decision not to include any members of the police department on the committee is based in part on the personnel complaint.

Polk City police Sgt. Dustin Bjornson said Oct. 7 that communication between city officials and police was improving. Officials are just now reaching out to police, he said.

“When we first heard about this at the council meeting, it took us by surprise,” he said.

Early estimates show closing the department would provide “substantial savings,” Morse said. The city is looking at trying to get Polk City police officers jobs with the sheriff’s office if it opts for contracting out services.

“I don’t want anybody to lose their job,” Morse said, “but we need to take the emotions out of it and make sure we’re doing what’s right for our residents.”

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Information from: The Des Moines Register, https://www.desmoinesregister.com

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