When you think of a police officer, many things can come to mind. That’s exactly what happened when I decided to interview an old family friend. Police Chief Michael Tupper is the Police Chief for Marshalltown, IA and has been since 2011. I was fortunate enough to get a hold of him and ask him a few questions about his career, personal life, and anything else that come up in the conversation!
We started off the interview by talking about how Michael got his start with the police force and how he has moved throughout the state as his profession has allowed him to do so.
Q: How did you get your start with the police force and what has been the journey that got you to the Marshalltown Police Chief position?
“I have worked in law enforcement for nearly 25 years. The last 13 years have been as a chief of police. I grew up in Dubuque and moved to Ottumwa out of college to go to work for the Ottumwa Police Department. I was in Ottumwa for 11.5 years. I worked my way up the ranks there from patrol officer to detective and ultimately sergeant. The last 3.5 years I worked in Ottumwa I was in command of the Investigation Unit. In 2004, I accepted the job as chief of Police in Nevada, Iowa.
I worked in Nevada until October of 2011 when I took the job as chief of police in Marshalltown. In 2011, my wife, Sarah, and I were looking for new professional challenges and wanted to live in a diverse community. We also wanted to remain in Central Iowa because it keeps us close to family. My early career in Ottumwa provided me with an opportunity to work in a very diverse community. I missed that. The opportunity to work in Marshalltown was a great fit for me professionally because it allowed me to grow as a professional and learn. Marshalltown was also a great fit for my family and we are very proud to call Marshalltown home.”
Nevada is where I am originally from and actually graduated with one of his daughters. She also attends UNI and has been just as much part of his journey as he has. Because of these changes in his personal and professional life, I wanted to know more about how the police force has changed specifically to meet with demands of either crime or just community involvement.
“The biggest change is technology. When I walked in the door with the Ottumwa Police Department, there were three computers in the entire building. The detective commander, chief of police and the chief’s assistant had computers. That was it. Now we have computers in cars, cameras are everywhere and technology significant part of the law enforcement profession. Technology has allowed law enforcement to work smarter and be more efficient. Technology has also increased the costs of providing police services and it is very difficult to keep up with. Staying current and make good use of available technology is critical for law enforcement because the criminals are also using technology to their advantage.
The second thing that has changed significantly is the number of people who want to work in law enforcement. It has become very difficult to recruit and retain good employees. People just do not want this job anymore and the decline in both quantity and quality of candidates has been increasing steadily for 20 years. It used to be a community like Marshalltown might attract 100 applicants for one job. Now we are fortunate if we have 25-30. The small applicant pool means that police agencies all over Iowa are competing for the same applicants in many cases. The hiring process has become a competitive and difficult endeavor.
The third thing that has changed is the professionalism and skill level of law enforcement officers. Despite the limited number of applicants, the ones that do ultimately earn the job are highly skilled and educated professionals. The education level and overall professionalism of law enforcement in Iowa has never been better.”
That professionalism and skill level he is talking about is taken very seriously with Michael. Because of that, a code of ethics must be taken into account for each officer. There has been a lot of negative stories about officers in the news lately and that is what prompted this next question.
Q: There are a lot of negative stories in the news about law enforcement’s relationship with the citizens of each community and you as police chief seem to have a positive relationship with the people of the Marshalltown community… How did this come about?
“I am blessed to work with, around and for great people. I am also blessed to work in a great community. A community which supports public safety. This is rural Iowa. The heartland. We are down to earth and we support men and women in uniform and the people who serve in our communities. We work very hard at the Marshalltown Police Department to build and maintain the public trust. I deserve no credit for any of this. It is the men and women in the field, the rock stars working in the E911 center and all of our support staff who deserve all of the credit. Inside the walls of the PD, we talk about serving with passion and compassion. We have a golden rule of policing which asks our employees to serve unto others, as they would want a loved one served in a like position. We also ask our team members to lead each day with a sense of urgency. Our staff has bought into these concepts and they work tirelessly each day to serve and protect. I could not be more proud of their work.
We have also asked the community to be our partners. As community members, we all have a responsibility for policing our community and for keeping our neighborhoods safe. We have a community that is buying into this and is supportive. Sir Robert Peel is credited with founding modern policing. He established the Metropolitan police force in 1829 and once said, “The police are the public and the public are the police.” I believe this concept and we try to live this concept daily. Marshalltown is like no other community in Iowa. When there is a problem, we come together and solve the problem. Working as a community, we have been able to maintain positive police-community relationships despite the negative narrative we see on the national level.”
To me, I felt the same way when he was the Police Chief in Nevada, and I know that the community of Marshalltown are in good hands. In closing, Police Chief Tupper wanted to say this to all members of their community:
“We have a safe community here. Our schools are safe. The men and women of the Marshalltown Police Department work for you and want to be your partners. Working together, there is no problem we cannot solve.”