Although Marshalltown has seen an unusual amount of high profile arrests in 2012, the Marshalltown Police Department Police Chief said the incidence of crime has been relatively steady.
With the arrests of an arsonist, a trio involved in murder, a pair of men charged with a bank robbery - one of whom is also charged with shooting a police officer, the MPD had its hands full in 2012, said Chief Mike Tupper.
Independent of arrests, the MPD also had to deal with situations such as the drowning of four children in the Iowa River, a body found at the Aquatic Center, a man who was hit by a train and the death of its K-9 officer Creasy.
T-R PHOTO BY DAVID ALEXANDER
Marshalltown Police Chief Mike Tupper stands on the bank of the Iowa River near where 10-year-old Andres Favela drowned in June. The drowning of four children in less than three weeks this summer was just one of the more trying experiences in Tupper’s first year as police chief.
"We have had a very busy year," Tupper said. "It is definitely fair to say that we have had a lot of high-profile events occur."
However, such a litany of felony arrests may have given the public the impression that crime is on the rise. Although the crime statistics for this year have yet to come in, Tupper said his first year at police chief doesn't strike him as one where crime has risen. January marks 20 years he has been in law enforcement.
"Overall, crime has stayed about the same," he said. "Violent crime is rare in Marshalltown."
Perhaps the biggest hurdle, Tupper said, is juggling such trying events with the police department's day-to-day operations. And while he said his staff has done great job rising to meet challenges, because the department is always short staffed, it feels the strain.
The MPD employs 43 officers, but the department is currently two officers short, which Tupper said is noticeable when something requires the attention of the entire department. In fact, he said the MPD is usually short staffed. Most concerns he has about the department arise from resource allocation.
"When you have a homicide, it's all hands on deck," he said.
Although the MPD has faced many challenges since Tupper became police chief in Oct. 2011, he said his staff have responded well under duress. Tupper served at Nevada's police chief prior to his Marshalltown appointment.
But the past year hasn't all been glum. The MPD can hang its hat on new efforts to curb domestic violence. Tupper has been a stalwart proponent of the police department working with local agencies and reaching out to better understand the citizens it represents.
He regularly tells people, "It's not my department. It's your department."
By being part of the Not In Our Town campaign, Tupper hopes he can help change the cycle of violence that leads to so many domestic assaults.
"Those crimes have a significant impact on our community, not just today but in the future," he said.
Gauging whether such programs work is difficult, Tupper said, but they are important. Tupper has extensive experience with domestic violence cases. His wife, Sarah, also handles domestic violence cases for the Marshall County Attorney's Office.
Another area Tupper said he would continue to champion is clerical diligence. Although it might not have some of the gloss other aspects of police work has, it is necessary.
"Paperwork is the most important thing a police officer does," he said. "If it's not written down, it didn't happen."
Looking forward, Tupper said there are a few things that concern him. Since, according to him, everything harkens back to resources, Tupper is concerned about commercial property tax reform that doesn't backfill communities to make up for the dollars lost in lower tax rates.
Proponents of the policy say that those revenue losses will be offset by an increase in the amount of businesses opening locally.
Although it is not a problem per say, Tupper said he would like to increase the amount of ethnic minorities working for the department. If the MPD is to be embedded in the citizenry, it needs to reflect the community it serves, he said. Officers need to be a "jack-of-all-trades," he added.
This idea works close in tandem with Tupper's drive to bring to light the actuality of Marshalltown's socioeconomic environment. Doing this would quash many public misconceptions like the notion that Marshalltown's drug problem is worse than other places in the state or county.
"Drugs impact all communities," he said.
Whether its drug or traffic enforcement, Tupper said police work is about changing the status quo. He stressed that the MPD does not enjoy writing tickets or arresting non-violent offenders. It aims to shift the paradigm so that people voluntarily obey the law. And the best way to do that, he said, is to show the public that the police department has a strong presence in the community.
The MPD's ride along program aims to help citizens understand more about the day-to-day operations of the police. Tupper encouraged citizens to participate.
These enforcement methods are founded on two principle ideals, he said: being proactive and trying his utmost to help those in need.
"That's why I started doing this job 20 years ago," Tupper said. "That's why I still do this job."