BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
MONTROSE – It’s a windowless room in the old Montrose fire station with a desk and a couple roller chairs, a flag, a chalkboard, and some radio equipment. It ain’t fancy.
But former Fort Madison Police office Todd Shields is as comfortable as he needs to be as he was sworn in Thursday night as the new Montrose Chief of Police.
Shields, at 55, retired from the FMPD last week and was in the office going about business this week. He spent more than a quarter century with the FMPD after serving eight years in the United States Air Force from 1983-1991 and then did a stint with the U.S. Army Reserve Charlie-company outfit out of Middletown. While in the Air Force, he served with the Air Force’s security police stationed predominantly in Germany.
The Fort Madison native and Fort Madison High School graduate worked his way up at the FMPD, after being hired in April of 1993, to the position of captain. He applied for the Chief of Police position in Fort Madison and said he was willing to work that job until mandatory retirement. Fort Madison police retirement is not an IPERS retirement system, but a municipal police and fire retirement system and that system allows full benefits at 55.
“I had, at the time of the last hiring for the chief’s position, made it clear that if I was hired as chief I would be willing to stay there until I was 65, once you turn 66 you can no longer work as a law enforcement officer in the state,” he said.
“I’m still in good enough shape and mental conditioning I could push out that far. But I said if I did not get the job, I would probably retire at 55. I would have more than 22 years and it would be a decent retirement and I could find another line of work to do.”
Several opportunities in security presented themselves, but Shields said it wasn’t about the money, but the move and going farther away from home. His wife’s parents live in Montrose and Shields’ parents live in Fort Madison and they wanted to stay closer to home.
Montrose Mayor Ron Dinwiddie heard about Shields’ pending retirement and approached him about the Montrose job.
Shields said the budget is a fraction of what Fort Madison’s police budget is, but the department has what it needs to serve the community right now and he sees it as his responsibility going forward to keep the department up to speed with technology, equipment and training.
He said his goal is to know what the needs of the community are from a law enforcement perspective.
“I need to know that and what the vision is from our mayor and council and then look at what I have and what I need to meet those goals,” Shields said.
“I’ve been told to make sure we are continuing to grow and moving ahead with electronic technology and I will be going back to them with quotes in the next few months to give them an idea of what that looks like.”
He said things change quickly in law enforcement and he wants to make sure he and his staff of four reserves are up to date with training and stay that way.
He also said residents shouldn’t be surprised to see him walking around the community at different times. He said he regularly would walk neighborhoods in Fort Madison while on duty.
“I think it’s good for people to see us walking around and outside of a vehicle at times. It also allows us to possibly intervene in an issue, rather than have to respond.”
When he was hired onto the FMPD in 1993 he said one of the tougher transitions was from military policing to civilian policing.
“That took some time. I had to learn to give people more time to respond to instruction,” Shields said. “People in the civilian world are not used to strict control on their lives. You have to give people an opportunity to change behavior. A lot of what I learned was to step back and give people a chance to change behavior on their own. In the military, commanders sometimes had autonomy in discipline and you can’t have that in civilian policing.”