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Iowa officials mostly mum on plans to send troopers to border

Iowa officials mostly mum on plans to send troopers to border

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Iowa officials mostly mum on plans to send troopers to border

Unanswered question: Who pays for the deployment?

DES MOINES — State officials are being tight-lipped about the planned deployment of Iowa State Patrol troopers to assist law enforcement efforts at the U.S.-Mexico border, declining to identify how many have volunteered and when they might be traveling to Texas or Arizona to conduct an undisclosed assignment.

Iowa Department of Public Safety officials were not aware, a spokeswoman said Tuesday, of any previous Iowa State Patrol deployments outside of the state since Iowa in 1997 joined the Emergency Management Assistance Compact — an agreement between states that the Republican governors of Texas and Arizona cited in their call last month for other states to send assistance to the border.

Several Republican governors, including Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, announced they would sent troopers from their states to help protect the border — noting the “rise in drugs, human trafficking and violent crime has become unsustainable.” But Iowa officials will answer few questions beyond that about the deployment.

“For officer safety purposes, the Iowa State Patrol and the Governor’s Office will not be identifying the Troopers who have voluntarily agreed to be deployed” or any other “mission-specific operational information,” said Debbie McClung, strategic communications bureau chief in the Iowa Department of Public Safety commissioner’s office.

McClung gave the same response Tuesday to questions about how many troopers would be deployed to either state. As to the duties the Iowa law officers would be performing there, she said: “The size of the deployed team and the short duration of the deployment will be similar in scope to our commitment to other special assignments, such as RAGBRAI and the Iowa State Fair. The Troopers will be performing general law enforcement duties consistent with their training and experience.”

On June 24, Reynolds said she approved the action in response to requests from Govs. Greg Abbott of Texas and Doug Ducey of Arizona under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact. Iowa is one of seven states so far to indicate their intentions to deploy officers to assist in border security efforts.

Iowa public safety officials indicated at the time that about 25 to 30 sworn members of the department would travel to the border for a deployment expected to last about two weeks. Currently, the Iowa State Patrol has a total of 360 sworn staff with 267 solely assigned to road duty, according to the department.

A department email obtained by WHO-TV last month said that the state “will be soliciting officers to travel to Texas to support this request. We anticipate the travel dates will be July 8-23, 2021.”

There has been no information since June 24 regarding details of Iowa’s planned deployment, but Republican governors from Ohio, Idaho and Florida have recently announced more specific officer numbers and other details of their deployments and use of state equipment.

On Tuesday, McClung said the legal basis and jurisdiction of Iowa law enforcement officers deployed outside the state would be covered by the multistate compact, but details about the estimated cost of the deployment and which state will cover the costs have not been determined.

“Normally through EMAC, responding states seek reimbursement from the requesting state,” McClung noted. “Expenses for this mission will not be calculated until it has fully concluded and discussions regarding payment structures are ongoing. The reimbursement process and travel/logistics are not solidified at the present time.”

Currently, Reynolds is not seeking private or voluntary donations to help pay for the Iowa deployments, she said.

In 2019 coverage of RAGBRAI, a weeklong statewide bike ride held annually at the end of July, The Gazette reported that state officials indicated the event sponsors would contract with the Iowa State Patrol to provide up to 20 troopers and typically reimburse the patrol for overtime pay and meals up to $22,000 as well as cover lodging for those assigned to work the event.

Jason Bardsley, president of the State Police Officers Council, a state employees’ union that represents state troopers and other law enforcement officers, declined to comment Tuesday on the deployment and referred questions to the state public safety commissioner’s office.

Sen. Julian Garrett, R-Indianola, co-chair of the House-Senate joint justice systems budget subcommittee, said he supports the Iowa governor's decision.

"As she said in her announcement, people illegally crossing our border with Mexico are contributing to an increase in drugs, human trafficking and other crimes in our country. We must keep in mind that once people cross the U.S. border, they can go anywhere. Because Interstate 35 provides a direct pipeline from Mexico and Texas to Iowa, we are more vulnerable than many states to the increases in these problems.

"Especially, because of this vulnerability, I believe the governor is justified in helping the states of Texas and Arizona try to do the job that the Biden administration refuses to do. Though I am hopeful that Texas and Arizona will compensate us for this help under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, I believe she is justified in helping them out even if they do not compensate us, because illegal drugs, human trafficking and crime in general, affects all of us whether or not we have a common border with Mexico," Garrett added.

He also noted that department officials have assured Reynolds that sending Iowa troopers to the border will not compromise their ability to keep Iowans safe.

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