To protect and serve: A night with the Mar-Mac Police Department
By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor
I showed up at the Mar-Mac Police Department around 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, just in time to see Chief Jason Bogdonovich pull up with a young man in handcuffs in the front seat of his truck. Although I had already organized a police ride-along for the rest of the day and into the night, I waited warily, unsure what I would be privy to, but Jason warmly welcomed me into the station for a first-hand look at how things work.
Jason’s passenger, who was picked up in McGregor and was driving while suspended, sat with his head bowed at a desk while Jason emptied packets of evidence onto the counter at the station’s entrance. One contained some marijuana, with which he broke off a piece to drop into a test kit to make sure it was indeed marijuana. It tested positive. Jason then set about the arduous task of writing up the complaint affidavit, detailing each charge.
“It takes a long time,” he said. “There’s a lot of paperwork.”
A little over an hour later, with Officer Rodger Sear transporting the individual to the Clayton County Jail, Jason and I were ready to hit the streets. (This past weekend was a sTEP weekend, meaning city, county and state officers were out in full force, looking to crack down on motorists who were unbuckled, speeding or operating while intoxicated.) Jason made a few rounds around the cities, checking for issues, before stopping in Marquette to look for individuals who were not wearing their seatbelts. The stop turned up no violations.
“Some days are non-stop and others there are no calls,” Jason said. “Myself, I’d rather be busy all day.”
Some lesser-known aspects of the job, like the paper work and picking up fallen rocks between towns, aren’t glamorous, but they’re important. Even just driving around and remaining visible makes a big difference.
“We just want to keep everybody safe. That’s why we’re out here staying visible,” said Jason, mentioning that frequent patrols help deter people from committing crimes.
Jason has been with the Mar-Mac Police Department since 2002, becoming chief in Sept. 2013. Growing up, Jason said he was always interested in being a police officer, although, in high school, he considered becoming an art teacher. After high school, he knew he wanted to get into law enforcement.
“I knew kids who were getting into trouble a lot, and I never wanted to be a part of that,” he said, explaining that he was encouraged by the respect officers had shown him.
Over his 14 years in the Mar-Mac area, Jason said he’s seen pretty much every kind of call. But there is one that stands out in his mind. One night, while doing a routine door check, he heard a fire alarm going off. It turned out a man had been cooking corn on the cob in his home, but the water had all evaporated, starting a fire. The man was passed out inside. Thanks to Jason’s discovery, the place did not burn down.
No matter what, said Jason, officers need to learn how to keep their cool and not let a lot of things bother them, even when faced with difficult people or gruesome accident scenes. He said working with a good set of officers certainly makes the job easier.
“You learn from everybody around you, including the community,” he said, mentioning that he enjoys providing guidance, especially to kids. Some of that is done through the DARE program, which he instructs. In his free time, Jason said he also enjoys practicing tae kwon do, hunting and fishing.
At about 6 p.m. I finally got to take part in my first stop. We had moved on to McGregor and Jason was checking for speeders. He finally got someone who, it turned out, had been stopped just minutes before in Marquette by Officer Delta Stickfort for failing to wear his seatbelt. With that stop complete, we headed back to the station, where I met up with Officer Dylan Rumph.
Dylan entered the station with a grin, his excitement for his job palpable, and asked me if I was ready. Our ride began with a quick equipment check and a tutorial about the programs on his in-car computer—silent dispatch, records management and the system for warnings, citations and accident reports. Then we headed out into the night, which Dylan admitted is his favorite time to work.
He began his career in law enforcement in 2006, as a part-time officer in Monona, before joining the Mar-Mac Police Department and graduating from the academy a year later.
“It’s kind of in my blood,” said Dylan of his career choice, explaining that one of his grandpas and one uncle served as sheriff while his other grandpa and another uncle were also in law enforcement. “It’s always something I’ve wanted to do.”
Aside from his job with Mar-Mac, Dylan also works part-time for the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office and volunteers with the MarMac Rescue Squad. When I asked if he ever has any free time, he remarked with a smile, “I don’t.” But he tries to get outdoors, hunting and fishing, when he can.
Early on, around 6:30 p.m., Dylan made a speeding stop on Hwy. 18, and issued a warning. He explained that the Mar-Mac Police Department does not issue verbal warnings so that they can keep a database.
As we got back on the road, making a patrol around the area, Dylan remarked how Mar-Mac is one of the busiest departments in the county, often due to more tourists and the major highway.
“There’s always something going on. I feel like the communities never sleep,” he said. “We do a little of everything—patrol, investigations, narcotics.”
Dylan said helping people is what he finds most rewarding about being a police officer.
“I enjoy interacting with the public and helping out when there’s a need, whether it’s a flat tire or if someone wants advice if their kid is having problems,” he explained. “You deal with people on a negative basis a lot, and that’s stressful sometimes, so it’s nice to have those positive interactions now and then.”
It was that drive to help that prompted him to become an EMT. In 2010, before he was with the rescue squad, Dylan said he had two CPR saves. A year later, he and ex-chief Randy Grady talked about how the police already responded to every accident scene, and were often there first.
“It was a way to offer more help besides basic first aid,” he said. “I’ve always been interested in the medical field. If I wasn’t a cop, I’d probably be doing that.”
Around 7:15 p.m., Dylan spotted a driver in McGregor who was not wearing a seatbelt, so he made a stop. Soon after, he heard that Officer Stickfort had someone pulled over in Marquette, so we made our way there.
“It’s what we do. Back each other up,” Dylan said, explaining that just because two cop cars have someone pulled over doesn’t mean a big incident is going down. It simply means that another officer is there in case help is needed.
A little after 8 p.m., we headed back to the station. While we were there, a 1010—or fight—came over the scanner from Prairie du Chien. With only three officers out in PdC at the time, and limited coverage from Crawford County and the state patrol, we hopped in the car, and Dylan raced across the bridge to offer assistance.
At 8:22, we were in Prairie du Chien and Dylan headed over to one of the downtown bars to help with crowd control after a fight broke out. By 9, we were headed back to Marquette, but warned that assistance might again be needed in Prairie to help control the St. Patrick’s Day revelry.
By 10:23 that call came, with all available units from Mar-Mac and Clayton County called, including the Mar-Mac Rescue Squad. Another fight, involving the same group, had broken out, with one man arrested and another taken to the hospital sporting a bloodied head. Dylan assisted with the fight, then headed to the Crawford County Jail to help three other officers get the man into a cell.
Dylan said Mar-Mac often helps the Prairie du Chien Police Department when needed, and that Prairie also assists them.
After that, the night was pretty tame, with everyone waiting to hear if more help would be needed in Prairie. The three Mar-Mac officers on duty also kept an eye on downtown McGregor to see if anyone from Prairie had made their way across the river.
Back at the station, Dylan played some of his chase videos for me, including one from a few weeks ago, where a driver was chased from Iowa into Wisconsin. Another was from two years ago, involving a driver who sped off while Dylan and another officer were executing a stop, then later had to be chased by foot. He said 130 miles per hour is the fastest he’s ever driven during a chase.
Dylan also gave me a station tour, showing off the department’s surveillance and thermal imaging equipment—resources not all area departments have available to them.
After that, we headed back out, doing a quick check around the area and catching up with other area law enforcement officials. We returned to the station around 2 a.m. Sunday. I headed home not long after, amazed and excited about what I’d seen and learned.