University Heights police chief resigns, effective April 12

UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS, Iowa (KCRG) - The police chief in University Heights has announced he is resigning, making him the third police chief to leave the department since 2017.

Chief Nate Petersen served as the police chief in University Heights since January 2018. His last day in University Heights is April 12. (Aaron Scheinblum, KCRG)

After just over a year on the job, Chief Nate Petersen says he is leaving to be closer to his family in Illinois.

At the most recent University Heights city council meeting this week, Chief Petersen officially filed his letter, dated February 28.

Chief Petersen has led the University Heights Police Department since January 2018 when introduced as acting police chief. He said though his time as the chief was brief, he is happy to be leaving the department at a good point and on his own terms.

Chief Petersen said the progress the department and the city has made under his leadership has been encouraging, and he wants to see that development continue in the future- including the department and city council recently implementing a ban on law enforcement racially profiling people.

"With the profiling ordinance and just a lot of technology upgrades that we've made, just keep going forward in that," Chief Petersen said. "And try to be at the forefront of whatever it is- technology, or whatever change it is. Let's not try to play catch-up."

Chief Petersen said not being able to see the ordinance and other changes during his time fully implemented is upsetting, but he is confident in his fellow officers.

"We've made a lot of changes and done a lot of things that haven't really come to fruition yet- they're in that mode but they haven't quite reached the end," Chief Petersen said. "So not to be able to stay and see the end of that is definitely bittersweet."

Chief Petersen will officially leave April 12. The University Heights city council has not yet determined who will take over as interim chief.

In Chief Petersen's resignation letter to the mayor, he wrote: "Moving forward, I will assist in any way I can to help the city select my successor. I will do everything in my power to make this transition as smooth as possible."

After losing a third chief in a two-year span, the University Heights city council had to discuss if it makes sense to keep the police force entirely.

The city council originally considered researching the idea of Iowa City Police and/or Johnson County Sheriff's Office taking over law enforcement in the city. As of this week’s meeting, that research will not continue.

In February 2017, Chief Kenneth Stanley retired from the University Heights Police Department. Kris Lyons followed after Chief Stanley, but was fired in March 2018 after an internal investigation. The city has not released the details of that investigation, citing it a "personnel matter."