Many people who’ve made a career in law enforcement see their first chief position as a stepping stone to a larger department, but Fort Collins Police Chief John Hutto wants his job here to instead be the capstone of his career.
Hutto’s first day as police chief in Fort Collins was December 1, 2011, and he feels fortunate to be in a community that is so supportive of its police department.
“It’s a great community and a great department. I feel very blessed to have ended up here,” he said.
Prior to joining the department in Fort Collins, Hutto spent his entire law enforcement career in Austin, Texas. He held the position of Assistant Chief in Austin for two years before retiring from that department to come to Fort Collins.
Originally from Houston, Hutto had started his undergraduate degree but then decided to attend the police academy in Austin and pursue a career in law enforcement. A friend of his from Houston was a member of that city’s police department and inspired Hutto to follow the same path.
“Education was always important to me, but I lacked focus at that time and didn’t know where I would end up. I respected what (my friend) did and he was somewhat of a mentor in showing me what the job was all about,” said Hutto.
I saw (law enforcement) as a way to serve the community and be in a profession where I had the opportunity to grow and do different things. And it was a good fit for my personality. -John Hutto, Fort Collins Police Chief
Hutto graduated from the Austin police academy in 1986; he later earned his undergraduate and master’s degrees. He worked his way up through the Austin police department, holding the following positions: patrol officer, detective, bicycle officer in the entertainment district, officer in the organized crime division, sergeant on a patrol shift, sergeant in the walking beat and bike entertainment district, sergeant of the motorcycle division, patrol lieutenant, lieutenant of the motorcycle division, commander and then assistant chief.
As assistant chief, he ran the training academy and was responsible for all of the patrol functions for half of the city of Austin.
When the position of chief in Fort Collins opened, he applied for the job, in part because he and his wife had wanted to move to Colorado one day.
“My wife and I always talked about ending up in Colorado. We’re both native Texans, but we both really enjoyed spending time in Colorado on vacation,” said Hutto. “And I was looking for the next challenge. This job opened up and I applied for it and was fortunate enough to get it.”
As Chief of the FCPD, Hutto oversees 197 officers and about 100 non-sworn personnel, including dispatchers and administrative staff. Even though he managed more personnel in Austin as assistant chief, he now has more responsibility because final decisions about department issues rest with him, he said. As chief, he is also a member of the city management team.
“Now (as chief) the buck stops completely with me. The level of responsibility is much higher. I get to make all decisions in terms of the direction we’re going to take the department,” said Hutto. “And I’m part of the city management team, which is part of moving this community forward.”
One of Hutto’s primary goals as chief is maintaining the stellar reputation of the Fort Collins Police Department, he said.
I want to maintain our position as one of the preeminent law enforcement agencies in the country. We are very well respected, and our officers are very well trained. We are seen as a destination department. We don’t have officers that want to leave here. People want to work for us because Fort Collins is a wonderful community and because of the quality of the department. -Chief John Hutto
Continuing to be responsive to the needs of the local community is another one of Hutto’s priorities. He has found in his time in Fort Collins that the community is incredibly supportive of the department and has responded with the passing of tax initiatives to provide resources for the department, he said.
“I want to continue to enhance our role in the community. I’m thankful to be in a community that values us, and we value them. I always want to improve communication and our place in the community. We get our priorities from the community,” he said. “We enjoy tremendous support from the community. A great example is when a couple of years ago, despite the economic challenges (of the time), the community stepped up and passed a tax initiative. The community recognized that there were needs in public safety.”
Hutto views his position as chief as being the culmination of his long and successful law enforcement career, and he intends to retire here.
“Oftentimes, chiefs see their first position as chief as a stepping stone to a bigger department. That was never my intention. I had a full career in Austin, and my intention is to lead this progressive department as the capstone of my career. My intent is to ultimately retire in this community,” he said.
Outside of work, Hutto and his wife enjoy spending time in the Colorado outdoors — biking, hiking or riding motorcycles in the mountains. The Huttos have two college-aged daughters. Their oldest is graduating this year from the University of Texas and will be living closer to them next fall when she starts graduate school at the University of Colorado-Boulder. Their younger daughter is finishing her freshman year at the University of Texas.
Lastly, Hutto added that he appreciates living in a smaller community where he sees familiar faces everywhere he goes.
“I like just walking around the community. Austin was a great town but it was too big for me. I was ready for a town where I can go downtown and walk around and see people I know,” he said. “That coupled with the great, physical natural environment here is what really drew me to Fort Collins.”