Pocatello Police Department appoints community outreach officer
POCATELLO — Police officer Matthew Shutes says his days are never dull — from running active shooter exercises at businesses and schools to meeting with groups around town that have concerns about a host of topics — in his new role as the department’s community outreach officer.
For instance, he and Police Chief Scott Marchand recently attended a discussion at Idaho State University about hate crimes and related issues, which drew about 30 people.
Shutes, 42, who was appointed to the post in early July, says senior staff decided it was something that would be good for the community. A similar post had been filled by police Cpl. Kirk Howe before he retired last year.
“We’re kind of in test-drive mode now to get it going and figure out what it will be,” said Shutes, who still does patrol duty as needed and works with the department’s K-9 officers.
One function he serves is as a first contact who people can talk to when they have concerns.
He also meets with focus groups around town, and serves as a go-between for various groups and the Police Department.
“It gives them an avenue to express their concerns,” he said.
Shutes said he gets a lot of questions. Then he can go back and look at what the department is doing about various issues and see if it’s something they need to address.
Much of what he’s been doing early on is working with schools, including how to respond if there should be an active shooter incident.
“That’s kind of been a lot of my focus lately is school safety and doing a lot of those kind of things,” he said.
Shutes also works closely with the school resource officers — police officers who work directly in schools — on a host of other issues.
And he interacts with local businesses, including on active shooter exercises. Those can be difficult to schedule for businesses that have customers coming and going. So he can arrange to do them in the morning or other times when it’s less busy, he said.
“They want to be prepared for that; they want to have that information so they can develop their policies and be prepared if that were to happen,” Shutes said.
He says it’s already been a satisfying post.
“There’s a few different places I meet with on a regular basis and the feedback has been good,” Shutes said. “They know who they’re going to talk to and have that personal contact.”
Police Chief Scott Marchand says the position has worked well, though they’re still figuring out what’s the best way overall to use it.
But he said meetings like the one recently at ISU are beneficial. It helps provide the department with ideas on how it needs to address issues.
“It’s nice to have those sit-downs with the community on other issues mostly because it educates us,” he said.
But Marchand may not always be immediately available for someone with concerns. So that’s where Shutes can step in. He can be a contact for community members, officers, school clubs, downtown merchants and others.
“He reaches out for our entire department,” Marchand said. “Our entire department is involved in the community.”
He said the police department is trying to stay connected so people aren’t just contacting the police when they need them.
“It’s a great program,” Marchand said. “So far it’s worked out well for us and we’ll continue to build on it.”