The City of Grimes has grown rapidly in recent years and that spurt in population and the influx of many new businesses that have sprung up have created a need for increased police protection.
Years ago, Grimes contracted with the Polk County Sheriff’s Department to provide that law enforcement. Two current members of the sheriff’s department have been an integral part of the growth, not only in the city, but also in the patrol they provide to citizens.
Lt. Brent Long began his work on the “Grimes Patrol” in 1998, a slot he filled until 2002. Deputy Steve Ballenger is one of the officers currently assigned to Grimes. While their duties are the same, their stories are quite different.
When Long began his work in Grimes, he was one of only four deputies assigned to the city.
“We had a single deputy on each of three shifts back then, and there was one deputy assigned to a ‘swing’ shift,” Long said.
Like most new deputies, both Lt. Long and Deputy Ballenger saw duty in the Polk County Jail as their first assignments.
Lt. Long began with the Polk County Sheriff’s Department in 1993 and worked in the jail for 4-1/2 years before attending the Law Enforcement Academy in Johnston. After graduating there, he went straight to patrol in Grimes.
While patrolling Grimes, Lt. Long also became deeply involved in community relations, participating in a children’s reading group each Tuesday at the Grimes Public Library, and hosting three separate bicycle safety programs (spring, summer and fall) for Grimes youngsters.
Lt. Long went on regular patrol after his stint in Grimes and worked in that capacity for only about a year before being assigned to the department’s “Community Relations” division. He was promoted to sergeant in 2005 and was again assigned to the Polk County Jail for three years.
“I became the department’s Training Sergeant in 2008 and was there for three years,” Long said.
Promoted to lieutenant in 2013, most recently Long has been assigned to the department’s Public Relations Office. He often conducts sheriff’s department press conferences.
Ballenger, meanwhile, has been patrolling Grimes for the past seven years, after also spending some of his earlier years with the department at the Polk County Jail. Ballenger joined the sheriff’s department in 2000 and spent seven years at the jail before going on patrol. After a year, he was assigned to the Grimes patrol, a position he’s held since.
“I elected to stay here,” Deputy Ballenger said. “I love patrolling Grimes and have been able to build a lot of relationships within the community – the city, the fire department, the schools, businessmen and, generally, with the residents – and I think building those relationships are very important.
“I try to go out of my way to establish those relationships.”
While Lt. Long was a member of a force that included one deputy patrolling on each shift, Ballenger is now one of six deputies assigned to the city – two on each of three shifts. Ballenger has served on the afternoon to 11 p.m. shift every year of his Grimes duties.
“I could have gone elsewhere, but I choose to stay here in Grimes,” Deputy Ballenger said.
With much of Grimes now stretched along Highway 141 from the “old” part of Grimes almost down to Ryder’s Corner and Interstate 35/80, you’ll often find sheriff’s deputies patrolling that stretch of highway and the many businesses in that area. But, they also spend a lot of their time in the old part of town.
When things happen, the Grimes Patrol responds quickly.
“When the storm hit last fall and the roof collapsed on the (South Prairie Elementary) school, with had two deputies inside the building within seconds,” Ballenger said. “And, it didn’t take long for nine more deputies to respond with all the downed power lines in the area.”
Even though he no longer patrols Grimes, one of those first two deputies to go inside the school was Lt. Long.
“They were there within seconds,” Ballenger said.
It was just one example of the rapid response by the Polk County Sheriff’s Department, along with its “Grimes Patrol,” when serious situations arise in town.