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Interim police chief a familiar face

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Interim Fort Scott Police Department Police Chief Travis Shelton poses for a photo beside a police cruiser. The chief spot had been vacant since July.(Jason E. Silvers/Tribune)
Travis Shelton didn't always want to be a police officer, but it's a profession he's become accustomed to and grown to love over the last 16 years.

Shelton, a lieutenant with the Fort Scott Police Department for 10 years, was recently promoted to interim police chief. The police chief's post has been vacant since the resignation of former chief Ron Puterbaugh in July. Shelton will also receive a pay hike along with the boost in rank.

"I'm excited," Shelton said during an interview in his new office Tuesday afternoon. "There are things I want to do short-term such as we are short some short-term positions ... I want to get personnel in place."

Shelton said he initially wanted to be a game warden after graduating from Missouri Southern State College in 1996, where he earned a bachelor's degree in criminal justice administration, but that didn't pan out, so he joined the FSPD.

"I originally wanted to be a game warden, not a policeman, but I didn't get the job," he said. "Fort Scott had an opening and I thought, 'My degree covers police, also.' I have enjoyed police work and made my home here."

Shelton said some promotions will be taking place soon within the department. He is also in need of some officers, including one to handle animal control.

Shelton said he will continue to supervise all patrolmen, but he will be "doing more administrative work" than in the past, making sure cases get filed properly and all leads have been exhausted. With presentations on trends or scams, he said the department is working to make itself more visible.

"That's an element of community policing," he said.

City Manager Dave Martin said after Puterbaugh's departure, some restructuring took place in the department and he conducted an evaluation of the department to get feedback from officers on certain issues and ideas for structure.

"When Puterbaugh left, I took time to step back and I knew Travis had the capabilities and the knowledge, but I wanted to do due diligence and evaluate the department and listen to officers," Martin said.

Martin said Shelton has helped make an impact on the local drug problem and has a good rapport with all public safety personnel.

"Plus, he has streamlined some procedures, and watching him interact, I knew he could be a good leader," Martin said.

Martin said he will continue an evaluation of the department while Shelton serves as interim chief and both will determine later if the job is the right fit. The idea is to give Shelton time to settle into his new role. The "interim" part of his title will most likely be dropped in the future.

"He'll have to make some tough decisions," Martin said. "You have to be willing to step out and take risks to make an impact. You have to be proactive ... I think Travis is ready for an aggressive approach (toward making an impact on crime) ..."

Shelton has also been key in helping change the perception of the police force in the community, "so they are viewed as civil servants" and "treated with respect," Martin said, adding there has been a stigma lately associated with the department.

Martin said he has been pleased with how the department has been operating lately and does not plan to look outside for a new police chief.

Shelton said he still enjoys his job "as much or better" than when he first started. One aspect of his vocation he likes most is interacting with residents. "I enjoy people," he said, referring to one of his strengths.

"We're a customer service organization," he said. "Taxpayers do fund us; we work for the community."

There are often many challenges that come with the job, such as "making critical decisions that affect people's livelihoods," Shelton said.

"You can't make everybody happy," he said.

Shelton said he has appreciated several "folks I've worked with and bosses I've worked for.

"I've learned from each of my former chiefs and will apply (it) to my management style," he said. "There have been some good qualities over the years."

A majority of the calls taken by the police department are "social calls," Shelton said.

"We don't just drive around and write tickets," he said. "We get a lot of calls for service."

Shelton, who grew up in Drexel, Mo., came to Fort Scott after graduating from high school and earned a two-year degree from Fort Scott Community College before transferring to MSSC. He was a patrolman for two years before becoming a K-9 handler, and was later promoted to sergeant and lieutenant.

Shelton said his parents have local ties as they grew up in western Bourbon County. He has other family who live in the area as well.

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So we finally we get a "local" to be the ciy chief of police.

It has been a long time coming.

We usually always have the talent needed to successfully run our towns,county,schools,and college living right here in a 30 mile radius!

I commend Dave Martin for having the insight and incentive to pursue hiring locally!

-- Posted by like2b_onree on Thu, Dec 13, 2012, at 8:42 AM

I agree that this is a good choice.

-- Posted by EyesOpen on Wed, Dec 19, 2012, at 6:30 AM

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