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Ride Along: Police, Dispatchers Face Challenges on Busy Nights in Iowa City

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IOWA CITY, Iowa - On a busy night in Iowa City dozens of people are booked into the Johnson County jail. After Iowa's loss to Penn State in October some 70 people spent the night behind bars, every person had been drinking, according to police.

"We do our best to keep up," said Iowa City police Sgt. Paul Batcheller. "It's not always easy."

Police are not out to make mass arrests, but they are attempting to keep order while protecting people from themselves, Batcheller said.

On a busy weekend nearly 1,000 calls are made to the Johnson County Joint Emergency Communications Center (JECC). Two-hundred ninety calls were reported in a 12-hour span before, during and after the Penn State game.

"We bring in extra dispatchers to handle the call volume," said Tom Jones, executive director of the JECC. "We get to every call and make sure each one is handled."

On hectic nights police typically have more than 20 officers working the streets from various departments, Batcheller said. Because there are so many calls, sometimes officer can fall behind by up to a dozen calls.

"The priorities are always bounced to the top," said Batcheller. "We eventually will check out everything."

Police report the busiest time is often between the hours of 2 a.m. and 4 a.m., after the bars have closed. The city parks a bus outside of the jail to help control the overflow, as jailers work to book in the arrested.