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Police rework beats with eye toward community oriented policing

WATERLOO — Drive slowly through the neighborhood and roll down your windows.

Those were words of advice Officer Darin Rulapaugh received from an old timer on the force when he started.

“If you roll through the neighborhood with the windows down … you’d be amazed at what you can hear with your windows cracked and just being available if somebody has something; they can flag you down,” said Rulapaugh, a 20-year veteran of the Waterloo Police Department.

And that philosophy holds true today, part of a push to increase community oriented policing in Waterloo.

In recent months, the Waterloo Police Department has changed the way it staffs its wards — the 10 geographic areas that make up the city. In the past, patrol officers picked their wards, changing their beats — their neighborhoods — as frequently as four times year.

Using the old rotation, officers were able to learn about different parts of the city. But it had drawbacks.

“The pitfall on that is you were constantly changing officers in those districts,” said Capt. Matt McGeough, who oversees the department’s patrol division.

That changed in August. Now each ward has three neighborhood police officers — one for each shift — as a way to build trust with residents.

“Those three officers will be the primary responsibility as far as stuff coming in. ... It’s trying to get us to build relationships to get officers to know the community and the community to know of the officers and the build some frontline contacts for those chronic problems.”

Part of the community policing model involves a push for officers to interact with more residents in their time between calls — buying kids ice cream cones, shoveling snow for the elderly or shooting hoops with the teenagers in the park.

McGeough said many officers have been doing this when they have time, but the department’s call volume can be an obstacle.

“The program will work great when time allows, but on a hot July night on second shift, to find any time will be difficult. … Hopefully we can come up with a balance to make that happen,” McGeough said.

Under the new policy, the department will begin documenting those interactions on a monthly work sheet.

Officers’ call volume is an ongoing issue. Although reported crimes were down in 2019, the number of calls for police actually increased during that year to 50,542, according to department statistics.

Police frequently handle mental health calls, even when there isn’t a crime.

“We are seeing huge increases. … This stuff gets pushed on the local cops, and we’re not mental health professionals. We are not equipped,” Rulapaugh said.

The department also has specialized community liaison officers. There is a liaison for LGBTQ matters as well as liaisons for homeless persons and downtown liaisons.

A list of neighborhood officers and community liaison officers along with the phone numbers and email addresses is available on the department’s website — — under the “Community Policing” tab.

AP featured
Iowa governor allows college bars to reopen with distancing

DES MOINES (AP) — Bars in Iowa’s two largest college towns can reopen this week after a five-week closure helped stop coronavirus outbreaks among young adults, Gov. Kim Reynolds said Friday.

Reynolds signed an order allowing bars to reopen Monday in Johnson and Story counties as long as they follow social-distancing rules. Breweries, wineries and distilleries were allowed to reopen at 5 p.m. Friday.

The order said the drinking establishments, which are often packed with University of Iowa and Iowa State University students, “must limit patrons from congregating together closer than 6 feet.”

All customers must consume their food and drinks while seated at a bar, booth or table, and groups must stay at least 6 feet apart. The order extends through Oct. 18, which suggests the governor could close the bars again if the virus starts to spread.

Reynolds had closed bars in six counties — including Black Hawk — in late August, but allowed them to reopen in all but Johnson and Story on Sept. 16.

Both universities had outbreaks after students returned in August and packed into bars and off-campus parties. Thousands have reported infections.

The order reopening bars came as Iowa posted more than 1,000 new confirmed coronavirus cases for the third consecutive day and nine new deaths.

On Saturday, the state saw its fourth-straight day with new cases above 1,000. Between 10 a.m. Friday and 10 a.m. Saturday, Iowa added 1,107 new cases, according to data from the Iowa Department of Public Health. There were 10 new deaths.

The number of newly hospitalized coronavirus patients has continued to increase, with 66 reported in the 24 hours ending Friday. That was the second-highest reported in one day since the beginning of the pandemic, surpassed only by one day last week. There were 58 new hospitalizations Saturday for a current total of 402, with 100 patients in ICUs.

Iowa has reported nearly 92,000 coronavirus cases with 1,377 deaths. In Black Hawk County, there have been 4,624 and 92 deaths.

For weeks, Iowa has been among the nation’s coronavirus hot spots with sustained high levels of new infections. The White House Coronavirus Task Force warned in a report last Sunday that the state was in a “vulnerable position” heading into the fall and winter months, and recommended a statewide mask mandate and limits on bars and restaurant capacity.

Reynolds has ruled out a mask mandate and ordered public schools to reopen their classrooms.

Last week, she loosened quarantine rules for students, educators and workers. Under the change, they do not need to spend 14 days at home if they have been exposed to an infected person as long as both parties were wearing masks consistently and correctly during their contact.

As of Friday, 85 of Iowa’s 99 counties have a positivity rate exceeding 5%, the rate at which many public health experts recommend measures to slow the spread, including mask wearing and limits on crowd numbers.

The most aggressive spread in recent weeks has been in northwest Iowa, where Sioux County has a state-high positivity rate of nearly 31%.

Brochures feature a menu of services at Splendore Spa in downtown Cedar Falls, Iowa. Photographed Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020.

Next 48 hours 'critical'

BETHESDA, Md. — President Donald Trump went through a “very concerning” period Friday and faces a “critical” next two days in his fight against COVID-19 at a military hospital, his chief of staff said Saturday — in contrast to a rosier assessment moments earlier by Trump doctors, who took pains not to reveal the president had received supplemental oxygen at the White House before his hospital admission.

Trump offered his own assessment Saturday evening in a video from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, saying he was beginning to feel better and hoped to “be back soon.”

Hours earlier, chief of staff Mark Meadows told reporters outside the hospital, “We’re still not on a clear path yet to a full recovery.”

Late Saturday, Trump’s main physician, Dr. Sean Conley, said in a health update that the medical team treating the president is “cautiously optimistic,” but also notes that he is “not yet out of the woods.”

The changing, and at times contradictory, accounts created a credibility crisis for the White House at a crucial moment, with the president’s health and the nation’s leadership on the line. With Trump expected to remain hospitalized several more days and the presidential election looming, his condition is being anxiously watched by Americans.

Moreover, the president’s health represents a national security issue of paramount importance not only to the functions of the U.S. government but to countries around the world, friendly and otherwise.

Saturday’s briefing by Conley and other doctors raised more questions than it answered. Conley repeatedly refused to say whether the president ever needed supplemental oxygen, despite repeated questioning, and declined to share key details including how high a fever Trump had been running before it came back down to a normal range. Conley also revealed that Trump had begun exhibiting “clinical indications” of COVID-19 on Thursday afternoon, earlier than previously known.

Conley spent much of the briefing dodging reporters’ questions, as he was pressed for details.

“Thursday no oxygen. None at this moment. And yesterday with the team, while we were all here, he was not on oxygen,” Conley said.

But according to a person familiar with Trump’s condition, Trump was administered oxygen at the White House on Friday morning, well before he was transported to the military hospital by helicopter that evening. The person was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke to The Associated Press only on condition of anonymity,

Conley said that Trump’s symptoms, including a mild cough, nasal congestion and fatigue “are now resolving and improving,” and said the president had been fever-free for 24 hours.

“He’s in exceptionally good spirits,” said another doctor, Sean Dooley, who said Trump’s heart, kidney, and liver functions were normal and that he was not having trouble breathing or walking around.

In the hospital video, Trump defended his decision to continue campaigning and holding large events in the midst of a pandemic.

“I had no choice,” said Trump, who refused to abide by basic public health recommendations, including mask-wearing. “I had to be out front ... I can’t be locked up in a room upstairs and totally safe. ... As a leader, you have to confront problems.”

Trump also thanked his medical team and hailed the state-of-the-art treatments he was receiving, comparing them to “miracles coming down from God.” Trump’s medical care is far superior to the average American’s, with around-the-clock attention and experimental treatments.

The president was angry at Meadows’ public assessment of his health and, in an effort to prove his vitality, Trump ordered up the video and authorized longtime confidant Rudy Giuliani to release a statement on his behalf that he was feeling well, according to a Republican close to the White House not authorized to publicly discuss private conversations.

Trump is 74 years old and clinically obese, putting him at higher risk of serious complications from the virus.

In a memo released late Friday, Conley did report that Trump had been treated at the hospital with remdesivir, an antiviral medication.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus reached further into Republican ranks on Saturday, forcing the Senate to call off lawmaking as a third GOP senator tested positive for COVID-19. Even so, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared he would push Trump’s Supreme Court nominee toward confirmation in the shadow of the November election.

So great was the threat posed by COVID-19 that McConnell called off floor proceedings but not Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s hearings, slated to begin Oct. 12. The Kentucky Republican, who is battling to save the GOP majority, was not about to give them up.

“The Senate’s floor schedule will not interrupt the thorough, fair and historically supported confirmation process,” McConnell wrote Saturday. Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham of South Carolina added that senators can attend the hearings remotely.

Republicans in the Senate who had attended GOP events announced that they too had tested positive for the coronavirus. First was Utah Sen. Mike Lee, then North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis. On Saturday, Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin announced he too had been infected.

Also Saturday, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie tweeted that he tested positive for COVID-19 and had checked himself into a hospital with mild symptoms.

top story
Greenfield, Ernst trade, dispute allegations during debate

DES MOINES — There was less cross talk than the first time Joni Ernst and Theresa Greenfield debated, but they did spend much of Saturday evening fact-checking each other.

Ernst, a Republican first-term incumbent, faces Democratic challenger Theresa Greenfield in Iowa’s competitive and high-stakes U.S. Senate race.

Most recent polling on the race shows Greenfield in the lead but within the polls’ margins for error. The race’s outcome could play a role in determining which party emerges from the Nov. 3 election with a majority in the U.S. Senate.

It was the second debate in a week between Ernst and Greenfield. During the first Monday night on Iowa PBS, the two regularly talked over one another.

The second debate, broadcast Saturday night by Des Moines NBC station WHO-TV and its partners across the state, was more orderly but featured some acrimonious moments as the candidates disputed each other’s allegations.

Ernst accused Greenfield of “making things up on the fly” and being “totally inappropriate and unprofessional” after Greenfield suggested Ernst wants to privatize or even “defund” Social Security.

Ernst has said she believes Republicans and Democrats need to work together to keep Social Security solvent. Democrats have seized on Ernst’s previous comments that she believes the parties need to work on the issue “behind closed doors.” Ernst’s full comment, made at a town hall event, was: “I do think, as various parties and members of Congress, we need to sit down behind closed doors so we’re not being scrutinized by this group or the other and just have an open and honest conversation about what are some of the ideas that we have for maintaining Social Security in the future.”

Greenfield accused Ernst of “being dishonest and certainly misleading” after Ernst alleged Greenfield called police officers racist.

Greenfield has said she believes there is systemic racism in many American institutions — including policing but also education, housing and other areas — when she has been asked about racial and social justice.

“We have discrimination and we need to take (action), and taking action is not the same thing as calling a health care worker or a police officer or an educator racist,” Greenfield said. “We need to address systemic racism.”

Ernst apologized to health care workers upset by her response at a Waterloo event when she said she was “skeptical” about COVID-19 death statistics.

She offered the apology during the debate’s final segment, in which the candidates were allowed to ask their opponent a question. Greenfield asked Ernst if she would apologize to health care workers who were offended by the suggestion that the industry may be inflating COVID-related deaths.

“I have apologized to our health care workers, and I will apologize again tonight. I am so sorry that my words may have offended you,” Ernst said. “I know that you are tremendous workers. You are essential workers. You are providing care for our loved ones every single day.”

Ernst, in turn, asked Greenfield if she would apologize to business owners whose businesses were displaced during a 2015 redevelopment project overseen by the real estate company for which Greenfield was an executive at the time. Greenfield refused, alleging once again Ernst was being misleading.

“That’s not what happened,” Greenfield said, adding that she is proud of her business record. “It was an economic development project, and we gave every single tenant more notice than was required, and we helped many of them move on to new locations, some of them in the same properties that we owned.”

Answering a question about the coronavirus pandemic, Ernst said the federal government should be responsible for providing public health guidance and resources to states, but said decisions like when and whether to order businesses closed or enact face mask mandates should be left to the states.

“Every state is very different, and some of the restrictions that might be really great in a crowded, metropolitan area may not work for those that are working in agriculture in the state of Iowa,” Ernst said. “So it is important that our governors and our mayors, those that have authority at the local level can actually step in and determine what might be right for their citizens.”

Greenfield placed more responsibility with the federal government, and said she has been frustrated with the direction and support from the current federal government.

“When it comes to a global pandemic, the federal government should be the authority on how we get through this health and economic crisis,” Greenfield said.

Election Day is Nov. 3, but Iowans can start voting Monday, when the state’s early-voting period begins.

Waterloo East's Brenden Stigler looks for room to run against Charles City Friday.