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Armstrong police chief wants computer back

Merrill has waited nine months for return of computer seized for ongoing investigation

March 15, 2018
Amy H. Peterson - Staff Writer ( , Estherville News

"It makes my job harder, and there are concerns for officer safety, public safety because of it. Dispatch communication and response time have been affected. The sooner we reach a resolution the better." Armstrong Police Chief Craig Merrill said at Monday night's Armstrong City Council meeting that nine months is too long to wait for the return of his computer.

The Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation and Sheriff Mike Martens seized Merrill's computer along with other city equipment as part of their investigation of issues with Armstrong's city government.

Merrill said inquiries to Martens did not yield an answer about when Merrill's computer would be returned. The city hall computer was returned the day after it was seized.

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Council member Dave Grussing, a former investigator, said, "There's no reason to hang on to the computer. I've worked hundreds of computer forensics investigations. Even if they had to call in an investigator from Des Moines, the download should be done within a day."

Grussing recommended Merrill research the price of a new computer and put in before the Emmet County 911 board, then send the bill to the sheriff's office, and withhold Armstrong's monthly dispatch payment to compensate the city for the expense.

The council also addressed Merrill's on-call time. Citizens have made complaints about the city police car as it has been seen at out of town events.

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"The sooner we reach a resolution, the better."

-Armstrong Police

Chief Craig Merrill

"We need to set up guidelines for the use of city equipment on call," said Mayor Greg Buum. "We have had it that as long as it's located 25 miles from city limits and he can respond in a timely manner, it's acceptable."

The council approved Merrill's use of the police vehicle while on call with council member Dan Moore dissenting.

Buum said, "It will improve response time, allowing [Merrill] to drive immediately to a call instead of driving his personal vehicle back to town to pick up the police vehicle and out to the call."

Iowa Code section 721.2, section 5 states a public officer or employee is prohibited from using property owned by the state for "any private purpose and for personal gain, to the detriment of the state or any subdivision thereof."

Multiple messages left for Sheriff Martens were not answered as of press time Wednesday.



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