When John Hutto stepped into the Fort Collins Police Services (FCPS) leadership position on Dec. 1, 2011, he had already decided this would not be a stepping stone in his career path, but rather the capstone of his experience.
"I had a good long career and, when I came here, I was looking for a community where I could ultimately retire. This is that community."
Originally from Houston, Hutto began his career in law enforcement at the urging of a friend who was a member of Houston's police department. Hutto graduated from the Austin, Texas police academy in 1986. He later earned his undergraduate and master's degrees, and worked his way up through the ranks of the Austin Police Department, holding multiple positions including: patrol officer, detective, entertainment district bicycle officer and sergeant, organized crime division officer, patrol sergeant, motorcycle division sergeant and lieutenant, patrol lieutenant, commander, and assistant chief.
As assistant chief, Hutto ran the training academy and was responsible for all of the patrol functions for half of the city of Austin. He brought that expertise to Fort Collins, a city he decided to call home.
"We have a very safe community and that's one of the things that make this such an attractive place to live and raise families," he says.
As Hutto sees it, there are two components that contribute to the well-being of Fort Collins. "First, the community has a good understanding of the role public safety plays; most recently evidenced by the passage of the [Keep Fort Collins Great] sales tax in November 2010 to fund critical services. With that, public safety was recognized and supported," he says. "Second, FCPS has an obligation to hire and retain the best people to provide the services the community deserves. We have a rigorous background process and usually start with as many as 400 people applying for three or four positions. We are a destination department and as such, people want to work here enabling us to be discerning and only hire the best."
To Hutto, it's all about community connection. "We want to stay engaged with the community. The community sets the priorities and depends on us to fulfill that. It's the community standards and priorities that drive what we do."
As to the future, Hutto sees many possible changes. "There is no doubt the City is continuing to grow. FCPS is at an interesting point in our history in that we have transformed from a small-town department and need to keep growing the appropriate staff in response to our expanding community. The next few years will continue to bring change. For example, as our department grows we will need to expand our training capability. This may include facilities for firearms, driving, and a police academy in Fort Collins."
He adds, "I've been in this field for 28 years and the difference in technological advances is amazing. From smart phones to body-worn cameras we are working safer, smarter, and more efficiently. Ten years from now, there will likely be more changes in technology.
Continued great partnerships with Larimer County and Colorado State University law enforcement are critical for success. A huge part of our interaction involves the University. We have a good model with the town and gown relationship; one that will continue through the next decades."
Bottom line for Hutto: "When I go, I plan to leave the department better than I found it through a process of continuous improvement. That's a lofty and ambitious goal when one considers what a great department this is."