Haines’ newest police officer started this week and the department is optimistic about the hire. Officer Ryan Rutland was sworn in on Friday and after a weekend to get settled, he jumped in.
Rutland was on his way to Haines already when he got the job offer. His family moved here because his wife, Lauren, was hired as the new Haines Dolphins swim coach. They moved here from Texas and have also lived in Hawaii and Colorado.
“Keeping people safe has always been a dream of mine, or a passion,” Rutland said.
Rutland has no experience working as a police officer, but he does have a background in enforcement.
After more than five years in the U.S. Army, working in intelligence, infantry and as a marksman, Rutland’s most recent experience includes owning his own company that provides instruction on firearm use and fundamentals.
He was a firearm technician at a gun store before that and a security officer with an international security services company prior to that. Interim police chief Robert Griffiths says that all that experience adds up to a promising new addition.
“I think that that’s really the strong foundation that we were looking for in Haines,” said Griffiths. “We can build him into an effective police officer if he has the right mindset and skill level and from everything we’ve seen and everything else, he’s willing and able.”
Griffiths wasn’t sure about Rutland’s small-town experience, but says the fact that he’s new to Alaska doesn’t really matter when it’s the right personality. He says that because Rutland doesn’t have experience on a police force, he also doesn’t have any undesirable habits picked up from policing elsewhere.
“Since he hasn’t been in police work, per se, it’ll be a lot easier for him to learn the way we expect it to be done.”
Rutland says his personality and ‘ability to get the job done’ will make him a good fit for the department. Rutland has two children, and he related working as a police officer in a small town to being a father.
“It’s probably similar to being a father…it’s just now you’re being a father to a larger family.”
Rutland is stepping into a department that is working to recover from a strained relationship with the public and a number of other failings. Those downfalls were documented in an independent audit of the department released recently. Rutland said he is aware of the challenges of the department.
So far, he’s enjoying the job. And he says he’s looking forward to a ‘long career’ in the department.
The Haines Police Department is still short one officer with a pile of applications being worked through currently. Griffiths says they have made an offer to a candidate, but are waiting to hear back on whether he can make the move to Haines.
KHNS’s Emily Files contributed to this report.