More than 35 years later, he's still proud to wear a badge.
Sutten is the new chief for the Tulalip Police Department where he recently replaced Jay Goss, who retired.
"What I would like to do is bring the police department and the community together to develop a trust," Sutten said. "I'm a firm believer if we can do that we will be able to not only solve crime but reduce it."
Sutten is a member of the Lower Sioux tribe and moved from Minnesota to Skagit County as a boy.
He took to working with fiberglass as a student at Burlington High School. He graduated at 17, on a Wednesday. He began working at a Bellingham boat building company the following Monday. There, among other things, he helped construct 31-foot river patrol boats used during the Vietnam War.
He liked the job, but grew concerned about the health risks of working with fiberglass and chemicals.
So, at 19, he applied for an opening with the Lummi Tribe as a police officer, a job that would pose a different set of risks -- those inherent in protecting communities against crime.
"I remember when the biggest drug we had was marijuana but when I left, of course we had a lot of painkillers, heroin, cocaine," he said. "It just came in and kind of devastated the area, a lot of addiction, just like other areas."
He rose through the ranks in 22 years with the Lummi Police Department, before joining the Swinomish Tribe where he worked for nine years and eventually became its police chief. He also served as police chief for the Upper Skagit Tribe.
"This is the biggest police department I have ever worked for," Sutten said. "I would like to take my training and experience to try and make things a little bit better. I thought this would be a nice challenge to take on."
Sutten said he got to know Goss over more than two decades and admired from afar the growth in the Tulalip department.
So did Snohomish County Sheriff John Lovick. He said Goss brought professionalism to the Tulalip Police Department and worked well with the sheriff's office.
Sutten said he is impressed with what Goss has built.
"He has put together a very good police department," he said. "There's a lot of talented officers here and I attribute that to him."
Goss spent two stints spanning 10 years as Tulalip's police chief. He inherited a tiny department that has grown to more than 30 officers.
Goss came out of retirement in 2009 to lead Tulalip for a second time.
This time, Goss said he's done for good.
"I'll be 66," he said. "That's enough for anybody."
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446, firstname.lastname@example.org
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