Muscatine police officer develops Code Blue program

Teresa Kleist (center) co-owner of Boonie's and her son Chance Kleist (left) with Sergeant Ryan Buss, marking the partnership between Booine's and Code Blue.

MUSCATINE, Iowa–In the course of their work, first responders often have to deal with some of the most tragic situations people experience. Sergeant Ryan Buss saw this reality for himself when giving notice to a mother whose adult child had died. “It was extremely hard to share that bit of information with a mother, and I was not even personally connected to the family,” he recalled: “I began to think about what we could do as a police department to lighten that burden. I wanted to find a way to help the families we interact with during a traumatic event in their life, and after a tragic event in which the police department is involved; I did not want the forever lasting impression of the Muscatine Police Department to be negative in nature.”

As a requirement to advance in rank at the Muscatine Police Department, Buss and several other officers had the task of developing a new community program the department could enact. Thinking back to delivering the death notice and the desire to give families going through trauma a positive encounter with the Muscatine Police Department, he came up with the Code Blue program.

Drawing on his own past, Buss decided that providing a hot meal to families offered one of the best ways to support them. He envisioned a program where officers assisting people through emotional situations could offer them a free meal delivered to them by a partnering local restaurant or a gift certificate to purchase one when they felt ready to. Buss then reached out to several local businesses, and Boonie’s on the Avenue signed up as the first participating restaurant. Buss continues to talk with other establishments and organizations and believes that more restaurants, and organizations that assist people in crisis situations, will sign on to help.

The Muscatine Police Department launched the Code Blue program in Dec. 2020. So far, three families have taken advantage of it. Buss feels encouraged and believes the program reflects well on the department’s desire to help the community. “I believe this program speaks to the core of who the officers of the Muscatine Police Department are,” he stated. “I know there is great potential behind the program to build relationships in the community that would normally not be developed in a typical citizen-police encounter.”

Currently, Buss knows of no other departments offering anything like Code Blue. However, he thinks the program will serve as an inspiration. “As for now, I do believe this is a one-of-a-kind program but we hope that it spreads and widens the potential impact.”