Iowa City Police Chief addresses homicide increase, narrative surrounding police

The Iowa City Police Department touts 82 officers.

In just ten months on the job, Iowa City Police Chief Jody Matherly has certainly hit the ground running with a slew of violent crimes, including a surge in homicides.

His brief tenure has been eventful, but Matherly said his department has shown great poise in trying times.

A 34-year veteran of the force, Matherly has worked in the high-crime bureau of Flint, Michigan and in the rural jurisdiction of Grinnell, Iowa, serving as police chief in Altoona, Iowa before settling in Iowa City.

Eight months in, his police force was investigating their third homicide.

"We don't like to see violent crime happen," said Matherly, candidly adding, "Reality is, a city our size with 35,000 vehicles crossing I-80 and crossing our doorstep everyday, things are going to happen. Our job is to try to prevent it from happening, and when it does, we take quick action."

Prompt responses from police have resulted in arrests in two of the three homicides.

In the June shooting death of cab driver Ricky Lillie, Curtis C. Jones was arrested and charged with first-degree murder.

Arrests were made in the pedestrian mall shooting death of Kaleek Jones, where Lamar Wilson is facing a litany of charges, including first-degree murder.

The first Iowa City homicide of 2017, that of Jonathan Wieseler, whose body was discovered at Lederman Bail Bonds, remains an active investigation.

"Our officers pride themselves on solving these cases," said Matherly. "When I say officers, it also includes our civilian staff. Everybody steps up when incidents of this magnitude happen."

Everybody -- including the community.

Matherly said the partnerships between the police and public are vital in reporting and solving crimes.

Candidly, Matherly admitted the current climate makes earning the trust of the community a challenge in some regards for some departments.

"Changing the culture in law enforcement in general given the narrative these days can be difficult," said Matherly, adding the community of Iowa City has embraced local law enforcement.

As for incoming officers, Matherly said he wants to cast a wide recruiting net, hoping to attract the next batch of officers.

Ideally, the police department is hoping to have a force reflective of the community from a diversity standpoint.

Regardless, Matherly acknowledged the view of police right now could serve as a deterrent.

"When I talk to youth, they're like, 'Well, I don't know if that's the cool thing to do anymore.' Used to be. We want to make it cool again to be a cop."

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