Policing a Diverse Community

Storm Lake is a city in rural northwest Iowa. The seat of Buena Vista County wraps around the northern edge of the 3,300-acre lake that gives the city its name. The city is home to many agriculture-based businesses, a strong public school system, two vibrant parochial school systems, and Buena Vista University, one of the Iowa Central Community College campuses. It is a commercial and business hub for northwest Iowa. Meatpacking plants are some of the town’s major employers. Once locally owned, the plants now belong to national companies.

At a time when many rural communities in the upper Midwestern United States are losing people, Storm Lake’s population has grown in the last decade or so from 8,000 to an estimated 12,000. That growth is not due to any proximity to an urban center; the nearest big cities, Sioux City and Des Moines, are 70 miles and 150 miles away, respectively.

Instead, the engine of Storm Lake’s growth is immigration. As a result, the police department and other public agencies have had to adopt new ways of doing business, learn about other cultures and languages, and develop programs that respond to the growing needs of a diverse city.