WEST LIBERTY, Iowa–This summer, Anamosa native Eric Werling took over as the new West Liberty Chief of Police following the resignation of Jeremy Burdess last year. Though Werling has worked as a police officer since 2007, West Liberty represents the first department where Werling will serve as chief.
As Werling served in various capacities, he knew that he one day wanted to serve as a chief of police. He recalls, “I was working up through the ranks and I realized how much I wanted to be in charge of a department because I wanted to make a positive change.”
Recently, Werling decided to take steps towards realizing that goal, and in 2020, he completed a masters degree in criminal justice from Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids. Previously, Werling earned a bachelors degree in psychology from the University of Iowa, which he believes helped shape him as an officer. “When I was starting, there wasn’t as much training on de-escalation and mental health, and it gave me insight on why people do what they do.” Werling also credits the time he spent doing cheerleading at Iowa with making him more comfortable speaking and working with large groups of people.
On Aug. 2, Werling officially began his work with the West Liberty Police Department. Since then, Werling has spent his first month meeting people in the community, learning about West Liberty’s city government, talking with school district officials to learn about their needs, and seeing what projects previous police chiefs had done so he could keep existing projects and programs moving forward.
As Werling starts his time in West Liberty, he hopes his department can work more with the West Liberty Community School District and possibly provide them with their first school resource officer. “I think school resource officers can be very useful, if used correctly,” he stated.
He also hopes to continue learning about the community by urging residents to come and get to know him. “I’ve got an open door policy, and I invite people to come in and chat,” he said.
So far, Werling has enjoyed working in West Liberty and genuinely appreciates all the support he has received from the community. “Everyone that I have run into is very friendly, very welcoming, and very interested in me as a person,” he observed. Werling appreciates the good relationship he has found between the community and the West Liberty Police Department and especially the fact that people see him as more than, “just a badge.”
Werling also values West Liberty’s closeness to Iowa City, as it allows him to work near where his kindergarten age son attends school. “The other part that really drew me to West Liberty is that my son goes to school in Iowa City and I liked that I can be near him and his activities,” he shared. Moving forward, Werling anticipates getting closer to the West Liberty Community and those in the surrounding area and working to keep them safe to the best of his ability.