April 22, 2024

Sgt. Tracy Cross announces campaign for Jasper County sheriff

Sheriff’s race now has at least two confirmed candidates vying for top spot

Sgt. Tracy Cross

Sgt. Tracy Cross of the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office announced this past week on Facebook that he will be running for sheriff.

Current sheriff John Halferty has indicated this will be his last year holding the elected office, and he is likely to retire from law enforcement. When Cross announced his campaign, he said the sheriff’s office has a long, rich history of strong leaders who have paved the way for those who are called into leadership.

If elected as the next sheriff, Cross said he will honor those who led before him by upholding the integrity, honor and service pillars through serving and protecting communities, while also investing in the people serving and volunteering beside him.

Faith plays a large part in Cross’s life and he often devotes time and effort to this church. But Cross told Newton News in a phone interview that he felt led to do something more for his community. He enjoys his job at the sheriff’s office and working with both paid and volunteer agencies.

“I found that I like being out there in the community, and I don’t want to lose that in our office. I want to have more ability to serve and lead our people in that service. That’s the part I really enjoy about the job,” said Cross, who has served in law enforcement for nine years, starting at the sheriff’s office in 2017.

Prior to becoming a police officer for Baxter in 2015, Cross worked as a tradesman. It is a profession that, he said, has helped him form better relationships with people as an officer of the law. Keeping good connections with the community is important, because that is who runs the office, Cross said.

“The citizens dictate how we run our office,” he said. “So when there is an issue out there, that’s something we have to deal with. If they’re asking for more things, that’s something we have to look at also … I have to look out for the mental health of our people. We deal with a lot of the mental health in the state.”

Cross referenced recent headlines that say Iowa ranks last in the nation for number of available state psychiatric beds.

“Unfortunately, those beds turn into jail cells. So what happens is those people come into jail and then our people have to deal with them, and that’s really fair to either of them. And I have to take care of our people’s mental health also,” Cross said, noting a number of Jasper County citizens are concerned about that, too.

Cross said the county has done a lot to do what it can do to address mental health, but it will likely have to come down to the state to find workable solutions.

When Cross was collecting signatures for his candidacy, the feedback and questions he frequently heard were about retention and drug activity, in addition to mental health. Job retention and workforce shortages are tricky issues. While the sheriff’s office wants new deputies, it’s not going to lower standards.

“We want the right people in dispatch and for the jail. We want the right people on patrol who will serve our citizens to the best of their abilities,” Cross said.

In addressing the drug activity issues, Cross said it requires the sheriff’s office deputies to communicate with citizens. Communities are the agency’s biggest resources when it comes to thwarting drug activity, or any illegal activity. They don’t want it in their towns just as much as the sheriff’s office, he said.

Cross commended the sheriff’s office staff, who he called “servant minded” and that want to go out and help their community.

It’s a sentiment Cross connects with personally.

“From the jail to dispatch to patrol and the EMS program, we do everything we can to be out there and be proactive with the numbers we got,” he said. “We’re always a little short-handed it seems like, and that’s a struggle for us, so I would really like for us to see more cars out there. But that comes down to budgets.”

Cross would also like to see the sheriff’s office add more layers to the law enforcement side, like finding grant opportunities to assign more school resource officers to area schools besides the Lynnville-Sully school district, which already has a deputy on-site for students and teachers.

“If we can add a few more, I think that would help us tremendously and help with our drug problem also,” he said.

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig has a strong passion for community journalism and covers city council, school board, politics and general news in Newton, Iowa and Jasper County.