Biltwell owner critical of Fort Dodge police

Says mental health issue used as excuse for inaction

Mental health is an issue that Derek Wallen, of Omaha, Nebraska, said is plaguing the Biltwell Apartments he owns.

And he criticized the Fort Dodge Police Department during the Fort Dodge City Council meeting Monday night for not taking action to help curb behavior that has resulted in thousands of dollars in property damage.

“It’s frustrating,” Wallen said. “I feel like we have $2 million invested in this building, and I can’t get the support of the local police department to clean it up.”

Wallen said when he bought the Biltwell, 106 N. 10th St., in 2017, he understood there were some needed upgrades, both to the building and with some of the people who lived there.

“A lot of things needed upgrading, including some of the tenants,” he said. “Our goal was to put new tenants in.”

To help change the culture, he granted the Fort Dodge Police Department access to the building to patrol the halls and access to cameras inside and outside.

But Wallen said there are times when police don’t make an arrest he thinks they should.

Wallen said in one particular instance a woman on the fifth floor of the apartments stuffed her toilet intentionally and flooded the building, all the way to the basement.

He said that action caused about $25,000 in damages.

“I want her arrested for destruction of property,” Wallen said. “What I got was that, ‘She was mentally impaired and the judge is going to kick her back out anyways.’ To me, you’re an official, sworn to uphold the law. You take it to the court and let them make the decision.”

In another instance, Wallen was critical of the police response when a woman on the first floor was out “screaming and hollering.”

“I can’t have it on my property,” Wallen said. “Police would blow it off — ‘She’s just mentally impaired.’ Well I think we ought to be worried about it.”

Wallen spoke for about 50 minutes during the public comments portion of the meeting. At one point, Mayor Matt Bemrich told him he needed to wrap up his comments.

Police Chief Roger Porter attended the meeting. He declined to comment further Monday night, but said the Police Department would be reviewing the matters Wallen referenced.