April 22, 2024

Colfax Police Chief Jeremy Burdess announces run for Jasper County sheriff

June primary will decide Republican nominee from 3 potential candidates so far

Jeremy Burdess

Colfax Police Chief Jeremy Burdess is one of three Republican candidates running for sheriff of Jasper County.

Following the announcement of current sheriff John Halferty’s retirement at the end of this year, two other law enforcement officers have stepped up to take his place this coming election. In addition to Burdess, the other candidates include Lt. Brad Shutts and Sgt. Tracy Cross, both of the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office.

In a recent interview with Newton News, Burdess said what prompted him to run for election was when a number of current employees at the sheriff’s office told him how unhappy they were with the culture of the department. They also did not like the idea of a new sheriff coming from within the department.

“It wasn’t necessarily appealing to them. Having worked there and them knowing me, they reached out to see if it would be something I was interested in,” he said, noting he worked at the sheriff’s office for 10 years. “Personally, I also felt like I had the experience and the leadership abilities to be able to take on that task.”

While at the sheriff’s office, Burdess worked patrol before becoming a detective and a field training officer. Eventually, he moved to West Liberty for a year and then returned back home in Jasper County and has been serving the Colfax Police Department as its chief since 2022.

If elected as county sheriff, Burdess said he would address the issues brought up to him by personnel within the department by creating an environment where “everybody wants to come to work and do their job and feel wanted and respected.” Burdess said employees want a different style of leadership.

The sheriff’s office needs to have a proactive role when addressing these issues, he added, as well as the many other challenges law enforcement faces today.

“We have mental health issues that is a huge deal that we’re dealing with,” Burdess said. “Probably 20 percent of the calls we go on are some sort of mental health issue … All law enforcement agencies are dealing with that. It’s just a matter of training and better preparing the officers.”

Providing resources to people experiencing a mental health crisis is also pivotal, but it can take some time before the adequate response can arrive on scene. Which means individuals with a mental illness may end up in jail rather than getting the real help they need. Burdess said jail is not what they need.

“They’re going there because there is essentially nowhere else for them to go at that particular time, and the mental health thing is a larger issue that’s kind of out of our hands,” he said, noting the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy is trying to work with legislators to come up with solutions.

Other law enforcement issues that interest Burdess as county sheriff is re-establishing relationships between the sheriff’s office and the smaller town agencies, like Colfax, Prairie City, Monroe or Baxter. When speaking with fellow chiefs, Burdess found those relationships are not as strong as they used to be.

“My belief is we may wear different uniforms — some are green, some are brown, some are blue — but we’re all one team: Law Enforcement,” Burdess said. “And we’re all working towards one goal, and that’s to protect our citizens and make this a safe environment for everyone to live in.”

Improving communication and being able to work together is crucial, he added, for all law enforcement agencies to better serve their citizens.

Burdess is also concerned about illegal drug activity, particularly when Interstate 80 cuts through a number of Jasper County communities. Vehicles passing through are carrying drugs from state to state, so Burdess would like to create an interdiction task force with the sheriff’s office, local police and State Patrol.

“All of us working cooperatively to address the drug trafficking issue coming through,” he said. “…Because of the State Patrol being short on people they kind of shut down their interdiction team they had. But there’s no reason we all can’t work cooperatively to address that issue, rather than leaving it to State Patrol.”

Out of the three individuals running for sheriff, Burdess said where he excels over his fellow candidates is his ability to build relationships.

“I would start within the sheriff’s office … building those relationships and making them strong,” he said, noting it may also help retain employees. “I want to make it a place where people want to come to work and they want to do their job because they feel like they’re wanted and they’re needed.”

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.