A familiar face from behind the meat counter is the new man behind the badge.
Simon Ford, who has worked here five years as a grocery store butcher, was sworn in this week as the Haines Borough’s fifth police officer.
"Knowing the town will make my training easier. As a meat cutter, I could be everybody’s friend. I want to try to maintain that, but this time, I’ll be doing things to people they may not like. So that will be challenging."
Ford, 36, said standing all day was taking a toll on his back and feet, and he was ready for a career change. "Also, I felt I had the business dialed in pretty well, so I lost interest." Borough benefits were also a draw, as Ford and wife Jennifer have eight children.
Ford worked 15 years as a butcher in eight cities in Washington state and Alaska. That correlates to 17 schools he attended growing up.
"My family were green-grass chasers… I always said I’d never do that to my family, but I was looking for the right place for my family. Haines is the best place I’ve found. It’s home," Ford said.
Police chief Gary Lowe said he was pleased to find a resident qualified and enthused to join the force.
"I’ve hired eight people for police officer. There have been two who’ve managed to stay on more than one year. All were from out of town. Living in this community – the ruralness, whatever – was hard on them," Lowe said.
With Ford, the department gets an officer with a proven work ethic, an interest in the job, a positive attitude, and no plans for leaving. "I’m happy as I can be that Simon decided to change his career. I think it’s going to be a great fit for us and the community."
Ford said he never planned to be a cop. Police sergeant Jason Joel was one of the people who’d stop by to chat at the meat counter, and mentioned the job opening. "I started out asking questions about it, not out of interest but just curiosity. The more I learned, the more I liked the idea of it."
Eventually he realized that he would love to do the job, he said.
The borough paid to send Ford to the 16-week Department of Public Safety Academy in Sitka, or police "boot camp," where Simon graduated with a score of 93 percent, while losing 30 pounds.
The program includes rigorous study, hard workouts and disarming assailants.
"I got pepper-sprayed, (shot with a Taser), and thrown in the ocean. We fought in the snow and in the tide flats with waves crashing on us. They want to throw everything at you that you might experience on the job," Ford said.
He also put 100 miles on his running shoes. "It was miserable fun," he said.
Some of police trainees are drawn to driving a fast car and throwing people in jail, but Ford said his attraction to the job centers on the idea that his badge represents a shield.
"It’s all about protecting the innocent from those who don’t obey the law and helping people" who sometimes have no one else to stand up for them, he said.
"That’s the part that appealed to me, doing something positive in a person’s life and helping people. It seems like a really valuable way to spend your life," he said.
Ford grew up in western Washington. He came to Alaska in 1996. He’s also lived in Kake, Petersburg, Wasilla, Anchorage, Eagle River, and Homer.