Iowa City Police Department to create new full-time Victim Services Specialist Position

The victim services specialist will follow up and provide support to victims of crime, while also working with community partners to ensure victims get the care they need.


Katie Goodale

Iowa City Police Department vehicles are seen on July 9, 2019.

Clinton Garlock, News Reporter

While social-justice protests take place across the country and Iowa City residents call for police accountability and reform, the Iowa City Police Department has worked to create a new position that will directly serve victims of crime.

Although the Iowa City Police Department previously had similar roles to this one reserved for interns and volunteers, this new position will be fully salaried and will require the individual to put in 40 hours a week and have increased responsibilities.

“They’ll be doing follow up contacts … check on the victim and if it’s still not a safe situation [see] what we can do to help them,” said interim Police Chief Denise Brotherton. “…They may go out and meet with our community partners … they go sit in the courtroom if they’ve made a connection with a victim who wants them there.”

Dustin Liston, the police chief candidate whose appointment will be voted upon by the Iowa City City Council on Oct. 6, said the Victim Services Specialist position will be an important aspect of his goal to restructure the police department toward community policing.

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“Victim Service Specialists’ entire focus is on the victim and getting them the resources they need to navigate an often confusing and traumatic process,” Liston said in an email to The Daily Iowan. “This also allows the victim to have a voice in the process which is a fundamental tenet of community-based policing.”

He said the El Paso Police Department, where he currently serves, also has a victim-services specialist position, and that such a role can provide training to officers to enhance their quality of service to victims of crime.

“It’s good that we’ll be able to have this position embedded in our police department and we can continue with our internship as well,” Brotherton said. “The more people we have doing it, the better.”

While she is active in the process of formalizing the position and receiving feedback from community partners, Brotherton said the application will be made public on the department’s Human Resources page when it’s open for hiring.

Ann Thompson, who is currently a volunteer Victim Services Coordinator for the Iowa City police, said she is definitely going to apply. Thompson said she originally began working with the Iowa City Police Department through an internship for her Master’s in Social Work at the University of Colorado, Denver.

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The volunteer position works only with cases involving sexual and domestic violence, but Thompson said she worked with other victims of crime during her internship, as well. Brotherton said the full-time Victim Services Specialist position would follow up on crimes at all levels.

When Thompson began her master’s degree, she said she did not expect to work with law enforcement, but her internship showed her the need to have someone within the police department with a crisis-intervention background to follow up with victims.

“I think [victims] are very thankful that somebody reaches out to them after law enforcement,” Thompson said. “They’re believed, they’ve validated.”

Thompson said that victim-outreach programs help fill in gaps between the community and law enforcement.

“In the space we’re at right now with social justice and the Black Lives Matter movement … it brings cohesiveness between the community and law enforcement,” Thompson said. “That’s what I’d like to see.”