Changing lives through law enforcement

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Lewis-Clark State College Outstanding Alumni for fall 2018, Clinton Blettner works in his office in Coeur d’Alene. He is the lead probation and parole officer for Idaho District 1. (ANDREAS BRAUNLICH/Press)

As far back as he can remember, Clinton Blettner knew he wanted to work in law enforcement.

Becoming a probation officer isn’t exactly what he pictured—but after almost six years on the job, he says he knows it’s what he was made to do.

“I want to effect change in a person’s life,” Blettner said. “I can’t do that for them. That change has to come from within. But I can play a part.”

Originally from Pennsylvania, Blettner served in the Marine Corps for five years before moving to Coeur d’Alene and enrolling at North Idaho College. He went on to a degree in justice studies at Lewis-Clark State College Coeur d’Alene.

A month after graduation, he got a job with the Idaho Department of Corrections. He’s now the lead probation and parole officer for District 1, which encompasses the five northern counties.

Blettner was recently named Lewis-Clark State College Coeur d’Alene’s Outstanding Alumni for fall 2018. The award recognizes LCSC Coeur d’Alene alumni who have enriched the lives of others through gifts of their time and talent, their involvement with civic, charitable and social causes, and their ability to inspire.

Anyone who is convicted of a felony in Idaho is either sentence to prison or probation. That’s where Blettner comes in: His job is to supervise offenders during their probation. But he does more than that. Blettner also builds rapport with the people in his caseload, so he can help provide them with the resources they need.

“Some need housing,” Blettner said. “Some need a treatment program. Some need support in the community—a place to feel like they belong, a mentor.”

Each case is different and presents unique challenges.

“By the time they get to where we are, they’ve been in a life of crime for a long time,” Blettner said. “We have really ingrained patterns. You’re fighting an uphill battle at times.”

His time at LCSC Coeur d’Alene helped prepare him for some of these challenges, beyond what he learned in the classroom. Putting in the work to earn a degree took discipline and dedication. He said his involvement in student government helped him learn to work with others as part of team, which is a major part of his job today.

Not all the people Blettner works with have a “perfect probation,” he said. But even those who make mistakes early in the process can learn and grow. He’s seen it many times in his years as a probation officer.

Whatever the challenges, those success stories make it all worthwhile.

“You get to be part of seeing that success,” Blettner said.

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