As of Monday afternoon, an offer is on the table for one of three candidates vying to be the Haines Borough Chief of Police. The borough hired a search firm to help find the next chief and out of 27 applicants, the field was whittled down to three finalists. Those contenders went through a rigorous interview process on Friday, with deliberation by the Public Safety Commission, the interim manager and a current police officer in executive session Saturday. Interim manager Brad Ryan said Monday he made an offer and was waiting for a response, though he would say who the job was offered to.
Haines residents will have to wait a little longer to find out who will take the reins at the police department.
The Public Safety Commission recommended Heath Scott, a deputy police chief for a protective services division in Washington, D.C. The decision is now left in the hands of interim manager Brad Ryan, who got input from the commission, the police department and former Interim Police Chief Robert Griffiths.
In his interview with the commission on Friday, candidate Scott referred to his current place of employment as a “boutique agency.”
He had a sense of humor – he joked that he would win over the community with cupcakes – but when it came to questions about ethics and integrity, his answers were definitive. He said he favors the “guardian” style of policing over the “warrior” style.
“My style of management is, to a large degree, I’m a very good motivator,” Scott said. “I want to motivate all my individuals to be successful. If I can do that then I’ve got everybody rowing in the same direction. And when you have that, you have powerful change that can come about. You can do anything.”
Scott used the phrase “gang tackling” when talking about problem-solving by utilizing as many individuals and agencies as possible in the community and beyond.
Scott also said he would “fight tooth and nail” to have an officer in the school every day.
“In Arizona, we have a saying: ‘Don’t mess with our kids and don’t mess with our guns,'” Scott said. “If you mess with those, we’re going to take you to court, we’re going to put you in jail forever. I like it. That’s what I live by.”
Along with officers in the school, Scott said he would implement “social media scraping” looking for threats – threats to students, threats to borough officials and domestic violence threats.
Another finalist is Tim O’Neill, a Sergeant in the La Crosse, Wisconsin, Police Department.
He told the commission he’s been looking at moving to Alaska for five years. O’Neill said he favors inclusive decision-making, and that he would combat the high turnover in the department by making officers feel appreciated and making sure they are well compensated. Getting “creative” with funding and grants is one way he would do that.
“Our purpose, any police department’s purpose is to enhance public safety through leadership and example. Nobody’s above the law.”
In Wisconsin, O’Neill has focused on coming up with various methods of combating domestic violence. It’s something he would like to continue here, he said.
The third candidate is William “Dave” McKillican. He’s the current police chief in Hoonah. He said he came to Alaska 12 years ago “chasing a career in law enforcement.”
He’s already familiar with Alaska statutes and life in Southeast. Two officers from Hoonah came to Haines earlier this year when the department was short-staffed and one of them, Officer Jordan Welch, is still here.
“The communities here in the Southeast and across our state, we’re all going to struggle at one point or another,” McKillican said. “We have to reach out with a helping hand every now and then.”
Getting more involved in community groups, and the school is on McKillican’s list of priorities. He said he would also like to get to the bottom of why there is such high turnover here, whether it’s salary or officer burnout, or both.
Jim Stanford is the chair of the Public Safety Commission. He said the commission chose Heath Scott for a few different reasons.
“What he did that separated him from the other two, is we would ask him a question and he would answer the question, but then he went the one step further on educating us,” Stanford said. “And he did it in a very logical, understandable way. And I think this is what this community needs.”
As of press time, Ryan had offered the job to one of the candidates and was waiting for a response. KHNS will have updates when the chief is announced.