A panel of local, state and federal law enforcement officials met in Urbandale Wednesday morning at the Westside Conservative Club meeting to discuss changes and challenges faced by law enforcement. One topic that weighed heavily in the conversation was recent fatal attacks against law enforcement both here in Iowa and nationwide.
Chief Mike Venema of the Clive Police Department says his officers know police work comes with risk. But this year's unprovoked attacks have changed how he feels about his job.
"I've never felt like we were being hunted before because we were wearing the uniform," says Venema. "Those officers have no chance to defend themselves."
Clive police have access to a chaplain and mental health professionals to help process their feelings.
Venema says he also appreciates the support and encouragement the department receives from its community.
Another issue law enforcement departments are facing is a lack of applicants wanting to join their ranks. Dallas County Sheriff Chad Leonard says he’s not sure why recruitment is down, but he guesses it has to do with recent attacks.
"This past week was probably the worst testing that we’ve ever had, and the process is the same every year. So it’s not like we’ve done anything any different to attract less candidates," says Leonard. "Something is changing."
Despite fewer applicants, Leonard does not want to lower his department’s hiring standards. He’s looking for people who are service-minded and want to give back to their community.
In addition to Venema and Leonard, the group included Lt. Travis Overson of the West Des Moines Police Department, Sgt. Joe Ellery of the Iowa State Patrol, and FBI Special Agent Robert DeWitt.