Remsen, IA wrestling with dwindling police, ambulance personnel

Published: Mar. 28, 2023 at 6:01 PM CDT
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REMSEN, Iowa (KTIV) - A lack of first responders has left one northwest Iowa community wondering if it can maintain its own police force and ambulance service.

Imagine this: You call 9-1-1, and the dispatcher says an ambulance or law enforcement officer is on the way. It’ll just take them 15 minutes to get there. That’s the reality citizens in Remsen, Iowa, could soon face.

“You know, as a paramedic, a lot of people will tell me, ‘Hey, you saved (my) life.’ And I said, no if it wasn’t for the EMT, or the bystander I should say, starting CPR prior to my arrival, there wasn’t been nothing left to save,” said John Hansen, a paramedic with the Remsen Ambulance Service.

The ambulance service in the city needs three to five volunteers. The police department is looking for just one more full-time officer. For three years Remsen’s police chief has been the only full-time officer.

“Plymouth County has an awesome staff with them, but they’re not in town 24/7. So they don’t know everybody in (town),” said Police Chief Scott Allen.

The ambulance and police departments are funded by the city government. Local leaders must decide if the increased costs of hiring justify continuing the services. Both could be outsourced to other agencies, likely at a reduced cost, but response times would likely slow.

Police and ambulance officials admit the job just doesn’t pay very well. But that’s why they’re trying to sell folks on the idea of Remsen and the culture that surrounds this city.

“The thing is if you have any caring in you that you’d say you’d like to help people, this is the perfect job for that,” said Hansen.

The ambulance service is seeking three to five volunteers, who are only paid when they respond to calls. The police department is seeking a full-time officer, and the chief said the city will pay for someone, with no law enforcement experience, to attend a law enforcement academy.