SHOSHONE — Just six weeks into his first policing job, officer Alex Mix feels like he’s where he belongs.
The job isn’t always glamorous. It’s never predictable. And he’s even gotten some offers for higher-paying positions elsewhere (which he’s turned down). But in small Shoshone, population about 2,000, Mix says he’s already seen the highlight of not only his career so far, but of his 31 years of life: On the evening of Dec. 17, he saved the life of a 1-year-old baby.
The day after the event, Mix was still pumping with excitement. He recalled responding to a residence in Shoshone where a woman came out and practically threw the child into his arms. The child was not breathing and was seizing. It turned out she was choking and had been without air for 2 minutes.
“Because we knew what the signs were, we were able to resuscitate her,” Mix said.
Mix has EMT training and knew what to do. He’d later been told that if they had been even 30 seconds or a minute later, the little girl might have had brain damage. It took them 1 minute to get on scene.
It’s moments like these where Mix knows he made the right decision to become a police officer. The California native and Marine Corps veteran moved to Idaho because he craved the Idaho lifestyle — and it’s where he and his wife intend to stay.
“I haven’t had a boring day yet,” Mix said.
It was Mix’s first day on the job in early November when the Shoshone Police Department was dispatched to a neighborhood that was being “terrorized.” The culprit? A turkey was on the loose.
Mix and Police Chief Austin Smith responded.
“I legitimately thought it was the rookie hazing,” Mix said.
But when he got to the 500 block of North Fir Street, sure enough, there was a turkey running around. Seeing the humor of the situation, Smith posted photos of the renegade bird on the department’s Facebook page, and the police wrangled it up.
“Every time I deal with a new animal, I have to take a picture with it because I think it’s hilarious,” Smith told the Times-News while sitting inside the tiny police station on Tuesday.
The Shoshone Police Department regularly gets calls about animals in the roadway or dogs on the loose. Officers have roped llamas, rounded up cattle and even held a parrot in custody. Smith uses social media as a tool to be relatable to residents.
“When people think about law enforcement, they think about us as these robots,” he said. “That’s not who we are.”
And Shoshone residents have caught on. Many of them now message the department’s Facebook page with requests.
“I think that our Facebook page probably gets more traction than any other department in the area,” Smith said.
The Shoshone Police Department has five active patrol officers, three part-time officers and a K-9 (which Smith owns and cares for out of pocket). They strive to be a part of the community every day, he said.
Case in point: On Tuesday, an older woman knocked on the door of the police station to ask if they could help unload some turkeys — frozen ones. She came across the street from Hope for the Hungry Community Food Pantry. Chief Smith and officer Mix obliged.
“You know where we live,” Mix said as he finished unloading several boxes of turkeys.
Smith says the department has a sort of open-door policy, where anyone is welcome to knock on the door and ask to speak with an officer.
A little bit of everything
A day in the life of a Shoshone police officer is never the same. But the day shift officers make a point of going to the school each weekday to greet children as they arrive.
“We really are a part of the community,” Mix said.
On patrol, he’s looking for anything out of the ordinary: Vandals at the city park, an unattended open door, or someone who covers his or her face when he drives by. Speeding vehicles are often stopped and issued a warning.
“Our job is not to write everybody tickets,” Smith said. “It’s to curb a behavior.”
Officers also check in with business owners each day and patrol around businesses at night.
Not every call, even to 911, is a true emergency — but Smith said that doesn’t change how it’s treated.
“People are calling 911 because it’s the worst day of their life, for whatever reason,” he said. “We treat all 911 calls the same.”
Reports are often exaggerated. Mix said he’s responded to a call of a dog “terrorizing” a neighborhood, but when he arrived, it merely jumped on him and licked his face.
But that’s just another role for small-town cops: They are often responsible for enforcing city code, performing animal control, doing investigations and even saving lives.
In Filer and Buhl, it’s much the same. Officers don’t have specialties and have even been called out to enforce weed ordinances and address cluttered properties.
“Rural police are sort of like the general practitioner of the medical field,” Buhl Police Lt. Kevin Hanners said.
Officers also help out other agencies when they are nearby.
The Filer Police Department has five full-time officers and receives about 400 to 500 calls per month, Chief Jeff Troubley said. And cattle are also a problem in town, where officers have had to secure them at the fairgrounds.
“We get a lot of cow calls,” Hanners said. “We just had horses in town on Sunday.
In Shoshone, Smith estimates his call volume rate is about on par with what a larger department gets.
“We literally deal with everything from a barking dog complaint … to high-profile crimes.”