North Liberty Police Chief Steps Down

By Hayley Bruce, Reporter

NORTH LIBERTY, Iowa - North Liberty Police Chief Jim Warkentin, the first police officer ever hired by the city, is no longer employed by the city.

North Liberty Mayor Tom Salm confirmed Tuesday afternoon that Warkentin is no longer employed by the city of North Liberty, but declined to supply any further information.

"He is no longer employed by the city," Salm said. "That is all I can tell you."

When approached for comment at his home on Tuesday afternoon, Warkentin declined to comment by shaking his head and waving his hand from the window of his home.

City Administrator Ryan Heiar declined, Tuesday evening, to disclose whether Warkentin resigned on his own or was forced to leave his post.

"At this point, what I'll tell you is Jim is no longer employed by the city," he siad.

Heiar said Warkentin worked for the department from Aug. 9, 1999 to Feb. 4, 2013. His most recent salary was $86,361,60.

Though the details regarding his departure are not clear, the city's website names Diane Venenga, who has been with the department since 1999, as the acting police chief. Venenga was recently named North Liberty's 2013 employee of the year, and was described by city staff as an officer who serves as a solid role model for others and constantly looks for ways to improve her own performance and that of others around her, according to a release on the city's website. She did not immediately return a call for comment Tuesday.

Warkentin grew up in North Liberty, graduated from the University of Iowa, and served as a Cedar Falls police officer before being hired by the city in 1999.

He was also involved in a fatal shooting in Aug. 2003, when he killed a motorcyclist he was chasing behind Kate Wickham Elementary School in Coralville. The man shot, Kyle Wasson, died of a single gunshot wound to the chest after he struggled with Warkentin, got into his police car and tried to shut the door. Reports said Wasson had a pistol on him during the incident, but it had fallen from his waistband during his initial struggle with Warkentin.

Warkentin was cleared of criminal charges in that incident by by a grand jury in Feb. 2004.

Coralville Police Chief Barry Bedford said Tuesday that, though their department regularly supports North Liberty when officers are needed, he does not expect Warkentin's absence to trigger any changes in patrolling.

The Gazette's Gregg Hennigan contributed to this report.
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