PAYETTE — Just three days into his tenure as the new Payette Police Chief, Gary Marshall has made his first public appearance. Marshall was the featured guest speaker at the Payette Chamber of Commerce’s monthly luncheon at the Payette Senior Center on Oct. 5.
Marshall shared about his background, and what led him to a career in law enforcement. He has served the police department for 20 years, though he originally worked for the Payette Street Department.
“Don’t hold it against me … I was born in California,” Marshall admitted to those present. “My parents moved here when I was a year old. I grew up in Payette, graduated high school here. I’ve raised three children here, my wife was a school teacher at the school district here in Payette. Three years ago, she moved to the [Treasure Valley] Classical Academy in Fruitland, where she loves teaching at.”
Marshall also mentioned that he took up hunting after high school, before returning to Payette to pursue his career. He has been a patrolman, a K-9 unit handler, patrol corporal, narcotics detective and a captain before succeeding John Plaza on Oct. 3.
“I ran the Payette County S.W.A.T. team for four years, and I was on it for eleven years,” he noted.
Marshall described himself as a leader that “would rather surround himself with people that will make him shine than shine better than his guys.”
He offered those present a chance to ask whatever questions they had on their minds. They had plenty for him:
When asked by Council Ray Wickersham what the department’s staffing situation looks like, Marshall said he had a full staff of 14 sworn officers and two civilians: an ordinance officer and its administrative assistant.
As a result of growth in the department and the city, he noted that the department is experiencing growing pains, not unlike its neighbors in Fruitland as has been previously reported.
“I think, probably in the near-future, I will be looking to try and grow our department a little bit.”
Marshall aims to hire a second ordinance officer, as part of that planned growth. In the meantime, he admitted that space for his team to work is becoming a challenge at headquarters.
“We’ve definitely started to outgrow the facility that we have, but we have plans in the works that we’ll be budgeting for in the years to come, to expand. We’re lucky that we have … inside parking behind the police department, inside the actual bay behind the police department, that we can expand into.”
Still, he noted that getting a new facility funded by voters would be a challenge if it came to that point.
“I don’t think that’s even been mentioned or considered at this point. We’ll make do with what we have and we’ll expand. where we can and when we can.”
As far as paying officers enough to stick around, Marshall praised the Payette City Council for trying to do so.
“This year, our city council really took care of us,” said Marshall. “I think we’re really competitive with surrounding agencies right now. Oregon is an exception; We unfortunately can’t compete with them.”
In his time at the department, Marshall observed that at least three or four officers jumped ship to the Ontario Police Department. He admitted that even he was tempted to take a job in Ontario, when a sergeant position there opened up 10 years ago.
“I put my name in the hat, and then I decided to withdraw,” he said, despite potentially earning $2,000 more per month. In speaking with his former coworkers, Marshall said he has learned that Ontario has a reactive force with “no time to be proactive.”
The newspaper inquired about whether the department’s practice of purchasing used police vehicles for its force would continue. At least this year, according to Marshall, that wasn’t even an option.
“We were purchasing previously-leased vehicles with forty-to-fifty thousand miles on them. But because of COVID, the vehicle manufacturers are falling behind” and resulting in a lack of available vehicles for secondhand purchase, he noted. However, Marshall said that he would keep an eye on developments, so his department may know when used police vehicles become available again.
When asked about cities such as Portland and Seattle grappling with the “Defund the police” movement, Marshall said that it’s unlikely to affect Payette in the immediate future.
“Those [Portland and Seattle] are very left-wing, liberal cities. And I think we have a fairly conservative mindset in our area.”
On the topic of intervening in mental health crises, Marshall said that while his department’s hands are tied if an individual doesn’t meet minimum criteria set under Idaho law, his team does have a 24-hour telephone line at its disposal through the Idaho Department of Health & Welfare’s Adult Mental Health division.
“They have people stationed here in town that when we come across those people that we can’t get them to help, or get them to voluntarily go, we call them. They come out and they take the reins.”
Such individuals would first be taken to St. Luke’s in Fruitland, as it is the nearest facility to Payette with mental health evaluation staff. From there, it is determined whether they need to be taken to facilities in the Boise metropolitan area.
A Crisis Intervention Team is available to give individuals in need a ride to find housing near Boise, he added.
The next chamber luncheon is scheduled for Nov. 9, due to the Nov. 2 election.