DEWITT — A city police officer fired in April has told the DeWitt Civil Service Commission that he wants his job back and the opportunity to continue to do the work he’s prepared for his entire life.
“I’ve tried to set myself up from a young age to be a law enforcement officer,” Jacob Costas said, citing military service, advanced degrees and other ongoing law enforcement training he’s completed, during about four hours of testimony on the third and final day of his appeal hearing Sept. 28 at the DeWitt Community Center.
The commission, a three-member public board charged with hiring police officers, among other tasks, also heard two days of testimony in late August.
The city maintains that Costas was justifiably fired after multiple driving infractions and two instances of insubordination, both in January 2021, in which DeWitt Police Chief Dave Porter in earlier testimony said Costas did not properly ask for permission to leave the city. In one instance, he went to Clinton to investigate a theft from the DeWitt Theisen’s store, a case he ultimately solved. In the second, he responded to an officer-involved shooting in rural Charlotte. He crashed his police vehicle en route.
Costas, who said Sept. 28 that he is seeking reinstatement to the DeWitt Police Department and back pay, said he would do any remedial training the city asked of him if he gets his job back. The seven-year veteran of the department also told the commission at the end of the hearing that he wants to clear his name because the city’s termination document labels him “unfit for duty” as a police officer, making it difficult for him to get a job in law enforcement.
“What am I supposed to do? I’ve sought education and tried to do everything I could to be a good officer,” Costas said. “I want another chance.”
Lawyers representing both sides spent much of Sept. 28 questioning four witnesses, including Costas, about their understanding of mutual aid — the practice in which police departments, sheriff’s offices, and state police support and assist each other in times of need — and the guidelines governing it.
One of those witnesses was Scott Reyhons, the Clinton County Sheriff’s sergeant who was shot while reporting to the January domestic dispute in Charlotte. Another was Zachary Lange, a Clinton County sheriff’s deputy who responded to a call of a suicidal person in Grand Mound in February 2020 along with Costas.
Both men said it was common practice for officers in one jurisdiction, particularly in rural areas, to respond to calls in other jurisdictions to assist. They also said they trusted Costas as an officer they worked with in the past.
Costas maintained that at the time of the January 2021 incidents he was acting in accordance with the department’s mutual aid guidelines, but said he has no issues following the procedures DeWitt police supervisors said he should have used to receive explicit permission to leave city limits.
Holly Corkery, the city’s lawyer, said Costas did not uphold the standards of the department. Corkery is with Lynch Dallas, PC, of Cedar Rapids.
Costas is represented by Skylar Limkemann, whom he obtained through his membership to the Fraternal Order of Police.
Both lawyers will file their briefings on the appeal with the commission by Oct. 29. The commission will deliberate in closed session, which is Costas’ preference, before announcing their decision on his reinstatement.