Pandemic profile: Duluth patrol officer Sara Schutte

If you’d like to share how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed your life, professionally and/or personally, email News Tribune multimedia producer Samantha Erkkila at .

Officer Sara Schutte
Patrol officer Sara Schutte of the Duluth Police Department shares what her job and her life have been like since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the Northland during a recent interview on Zoom. (Samantha Erkkila /

Sara Schutte is a patrol officer for the Duluth Police Department. She has been with the department since 2018 and covers District 24, which starts in Lincoln Park and extends west to the Fond du Lac neighborhood.

Schutte came to Duluth in 2010 to attend the University of Minnesota Duluth. She lives in a house with one roommate, who also has a full-time job. She said besides not going out to restaurants with friends, life for her and her roommate has been pretty much the same since the stay-at-home order went into effect.

"I think I was practicing social distancing before it was trending," Schutte said. "I enjoy spending some time alone."

Her job, on the other hand, has seen many changes.

How has your job changed in the last month or so?

“I think the COVID-19 response has really changed the scope of the way we view safety. One way that has changed is through dispatch. Officers rely heavily on dispatchers for information to prepare us for what exactly it is we are responding to. So in addition to the typical questions they would ask a 911 caller, dispatch is now asking a series of questions about additional health and safety, just to troubleshoot to see if someone may be experiencing symptoms of the virus or if someone has an underlying health condition that may put them more at risk. We absolutely want to be aware of that. And so that information gathered by dispatch has been tremendously helpful in creating a more prepared police response., whether it be wearing masks or face shields, or wearing rubber gloves versus the fabric gloves that you traditionally see officers wearing. Things like that.”


With the restructuring and staggering of shifts that have occurred in an effort to avoid an outbreak at the department, what has it been like working alongside investigators now that everyone is on patrol?

“It’s been really neat to have some of the investigators on patrol with us. They are the people who typically work on violent crimes, or sex crimes, or property crimes, or financial crimes and these very specialized people are all coming together on calls. And it’s neat because they are right there at the patrol level and they are able to offer an insight that is maybe something we wouldn’t have thought of. They have different knowledge and experience than our patrol officers and vice versa. So we’ve really had a cool opportunity to learn from one another, which I think makes us stronger.”

What are some of the things you’ve seen on call lately?

“We do see a lot of people wearing face masks and gloves and I think that’s great. People have been very cognizant of giving officers space as well. Sometimes police response generates some spectators, and that’s OK. Those spectators have been pretty good about giving us more space and just creating a safe distance.”

Have you been a part of the birthday parades and other events like that?

“Yeah, absolutely. I think it’s really great that we are doing those things. The Duluth Police Department puts a huge emphasis on community engagement, and connecting with the community members means a lot to us. So these new social distancing rules have made it challenging in the sense that we’ve had to come up with some creative ways to interact with people. Obviously we still want to be a part of your lives. We are still interested in the things that matter to you and we want to be there to support you just as you support us.”

What are some things you are doing when you aren’t on patrol?

“I spend a lot of time outdoors. I do a lot of hobby bird watching. I did buy a new bicycle so I’ve been learning how to mountain bike, which has been a cool experience. It’s tough. But it’s fun. I don’t know if I have a favorite trail yet, but I’m definitely taking recommendations.”

Samantha Erkkila is a former digital content producer for the Duluth News Tribune.
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