WATERLOO — Dan Trelka will continue to lead an embattled Waterloo Police Department looking to rebuild trust with the community and stamp out gun violence.
Residents, mostly supporting the safety services director, packed the City Council chambers Monday just hours after Mayor Quentin Hart announced Trelka would remain on the job.
Many carrying signs stating “We got your six, Dan” and “Don’t scapegoat Trelka” gave him a standing ovation when he entered the council chambers and shared personal stories about how Trelka had helped them resolve issues.
Others said Trelka should be held accountable for a series of recent missteps by his officers involving black suspects.
While Trelka reportedly told some of his officers last week he’d been asked to resign — reports neither Hart nor Trelka would confirm or deny — Hart said Trelka was being assigned for the next year to focus solely on the police issues, removing him from his dual role overseeing Waterloo Fire Rescue.
“I believe that Dan Trelka is the one that can help us to address the myriad of challenges internally and externally that we face,” Hart said.
“Chief Trelka and I, through community meetings, outreach, best practices, conversations and a passion for this community have begun a process of a community-wide policing plan that will work toward regaining public trust that has been lost due to some of our shortcomings.
“But this just isn’t a plan to hold accountability to our public safety officials,” he added. “It will also send a message to any perpetrators of senseless violence that takes place in our streets that enough is enough.”
Trelka said he was not quitting and will “work with Mayor Hart.”
“We’ve got some challenges to face; we’ve got some adjustments to make,” Trelka said. “We’re having great conversations. All of this is for the betterment of Waterloo and I’m optimistic for the future of all of us.”
Trelka was hired as Waterloo’s police chief in 2010, and he was appointed to the newly created position of director of public safety in January 2011, which included overseeing fire operations.
Hart said Pat Treloar, chief of fire services, would now answer directly to the mayor’s office.
“(Trelka) and I both agree that at this moment the focus should just be with WPD and him as chief,” Hart said. “The challenges that we face internally and externally are too daunting to have a dual capacity.”
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The Waterloo Police Department has been involved in a series of incidents recently that led some to call for the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate.
Those included settlements over improper use of force, recorded remarks an officer made disparaging a black teen killed in 2013 and the release of a video earlier this month showing an officer striking and pulling the hair of a handcuffed black suspect following a chase and crash.
Hart acknowledged those incidents shine a bad light on the community but stood by the police department.
“The (incidents) don’t represent City Hall and they don’t represent the best of what our brave public safety officers have to represent this community,” he said.
More than 30 residents paraded to the microphone during nearly two hours of public comments during the council meeting. Several residents said they were prepared to blister the city for forcing Trelka to resign but changed their message after learning he was staying.
“The way things transpired over the last four days is ridiculous, absolutely appalling,” said Pete Miles, who said Trelka deserves more officers along with the city’s support. “In the six years he has been here, every year crime has dropped.”
Hart took personal responsibility for the situation when some residents began criticizing the City Council for the issues swirling around Trelka’s employment.
“I’m not going to let them take a beating for conversations I’ve had with Dan,” Hart said. “This was my conversation with a staff member.”
Others were not as quick to applaud the decision to keep Trelka on board.
Andrea Anderson said change was needed at the top of the department because officers who allegedly roughed up her 17-year-old son Malcolm in 2014 remain employed in the city.
“Why are they not in jail for assaulting my son?” said Anderson. Malcolm filed a federal lawsuit over the incident and was paid $100,000 to settle the suit this year and not speak about it.
David Goodson said he once supported Trelka to the federal justice officials but was changing his view.
“I do want you to know I question your leadership,” Goodson said. “You’ve got some police officers on this force making you look bad.”