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MPD, YSS to form partnership

Council increases initial financial request for program

T-R photos by Thomas Nelson —

In an impassioned speech to the Marshalltown City Council, Police Chief Mike Tupper spoke in favor of a pilot program which would see Marshalltown Police Department and Youth Shelter Services working together to provide social services and policing under one roof.

“What we’re asking police officers to do in this country is too much, quite frankly,” Tupper said. “This has been a rough summer for law enforcement and it’s been one of the rougher years for me personally and professionally and I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on 28 years in the business.”

The protests caused by the death of George Floyd in May have caused many people to rethink policing. There has been a big push for more social services so police are not always called to handle mental health issues.

“We don’t always have the resources we need to solve some of the complex problems that exist in our community,” Tupper said. “We have to do better.”

He focused on the subject of community policing, but not as a show of force or by increasing policing, but by shifting toward outreach and social services.

Mike Tupper, Marshalltown Police Chief, talks to the city council for funding of a YSS and MPD partnership. he council approved funding for $150,000.

“A law enforcement solution isn’t always the best response,” Tupper said. “I want people in our community to have the courage to call for help when they need it. I don’t want them to be afraid when they call us and when we show up, I want us to make sure that we’re bringing the appropriate resources and these resources have to be timely.

“At 3 o’clock in the morning we need resources. We don’t need a promise of a phone call tomorrow or next week.”

The proposed partnership would have social services and crisis intervention workers, possibly going to a scene with police officers to avoid a violent intervention.

“It seems more appropriate to find a way to make that happen,” Tupper said. “We need to think a little more outside the box.”

During the meeting, Tupper and YSS Director David Hicks asked the council for $25,000 to begin the project.

Youth Shelter Services in Marshalltown is in the Marshalltown Police Department’s old building, they are now partnering up. The idea is that social services will help assist police officers avoid violent encounters.

“I think we have an opportunity to do something very special,” Tupper said.

Council members were moved by the request and the idea. Council member Gary Thompson amended the motion to provide $150,000 worth of funding, which Tupper thought would fully fund the project.

The amended motion was approved. The council will vote on the funding at a later meeting after Tupper and Hicks put together a presentation on the partnership.

“The next step will be to put together a work group to determine how we can provide these services in our community,” Tupper said.

Some would include crisis services.

“I approached YSS about a month ago and we started brainstorming ideas on how we might partner together to see how we could provide some enhanced services in our community,” Tupper said.

The national conversation about law enforcement acted as a catalyst for the conversation.

“A lot of those points I strongly agree with,” Tupper said. “We do need more social services in our community. I thought now would be a good time to see how the police department might be able to be a more active partner in our community with our social services entities.”

The MPD has worked with YSS in the past. YSS is now housed in the MPD’s old headquarters.

“Right now we’re at the beginning stages of a conversation,” Tupper said.

Any prospective social worker would work with the MPD, but would not answer to the police chief.

“This is long overdue,” Thompson said.

SInce the funding is more than $45,000 it will need to come before the council as a resolution for approval.

“The funding is awesome. We did not expect that tonight,” Tupper said. “We need to be methodical about how we move forward. We don’t want to rush this, there’s still a lot of work to do.”

Tupper and Hicks hope to begin the program around the beginning of the year and it would be one of the first of its kind in Iowa.

“We’re putting far too many people in jail and we’ve been doing that for far too many years in this country,” Tupper said. “This is going to open some options for us and I fully believe that we’re going to see a reduction in arrests.”

In other business:

• The council will also look at a $225,000 purchase of new radio equipment for the MPD.

• Mayor Joel Greer declared Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 Latino and Hispanic Heritage Month.

• The city will move forward with almost $12 million worth of general obligation bonds.

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Contact Thomas Nelsonat 641-753-6611 or tnelson@timesrepublican.com

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