Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Fullerton to become state trooper


June 14, 2018 | View PDF

Fullerton graduated last week. Photo courtesy of Alekka Fullerton.

Michael Fullerton has started over many times throughout his adult life-he's been a financial advisor, a head-hunter for large corporations, a customer service agent for a small airport, owned his own car-dent removal business and was a stay-at-home dad. Now, at 52 years old, he'll soon be wearing a badge as an officer with the Alaska State Troopers.

"He looks great in a uniform," Alekka Fullerton said of watching her husband graduate from the Alaska Law Enforcement Training program in Sitka last week.

Fullerton is one of the oldest recruits to complete the 16-week state certification training at the Department of Public Safety Academy. The intensive program had him waking up at 4:30 a.m., seven days a week for four months where each day blended in the next, he said.

The training consisted of physical fitness routines, learning law enforcement and court procedures, firearms training, driving and defensive tactics. Fullerton lost 20 pounds during the training, he said. "A lot of my softness has gone away. I'm much firmer in all the jiggly parts," Fullerton said. "For a 52-year-old it's a pleasant change."

Instructors also shot him with an electrified stun gun, pepper spray and, in an effort to train as close to real life as possible, had a fellow cadet punch him in the face during defensive tactics training.

"If I had to choose which one I don't want to do again it is to get pepper sprayed. That was awful," Fullerton said. "Getting punched in the face just lasts for a second. Getting tased lasts for five seconds. Getting pepper sprayed lasts for hours and hours and hours. It gives me a great deal of respect for that tool and something I don't ever want to have happen."

Fullerton was not only older than fellow trainees, the bulk of whom were in their early 20s, he was also older than his instructors. He was determined not to let age interfere with his goal, he said. Instead of a barrier, Fullerton said his age gave him an advantage during the training. He said his life experience engendered a level of respect from his classmates, who looked to him for advice as the course progressed. It's the same life experience, which allows him to put himself in other people's shoes, that will help make him an empathetic cop, Fullerton said.

"I think of my position as a trooper as being out there helping people," Fullerton said. "I think you're in a better position to help people if you have life experience to go along with it. You're able to project yourself into their situation in some respect because your life experience has allowed you to empathize with that person who is struggling."

Fullerton moved to Haines in 2016 with Alekka, who was recently hired as the borough clerk. While in Haines, Fullerton worked as a seasonal technician with Alaska Wildlife Trooper Trent Chwialkowski. He also served on the borough's public safety commission and ran for a seat on the borough assembly last October-narrowly losing a seat by 32 votes. He said he's always been drawn to public service.

"Some people just move toward what needs to be done," Fullerton said. "If you hear of someone who needs or cries out for help, you naturally move to it instead of assessing what needs to be done to save yourself. I've always found myself moving toward those sounds."

That call, however, means he'll live and work far from home. Due to state budget cuts and the difficulty of recruiting new troopers, the Department of Public Safety moved Haines' State Trooper position to Western Alaska last winter and isn't planning on replacing it anytime soon. After completing an additional two-week training course, Fullerton will be posted in Fairbanks.

"That's the hard part," Alekka said. "It's not going to be a lot of fun for a while, but we'll make it work."

During training Fullerton said he talked with Alekka every night she wasn't attending municipal meetings as clerk, and that he's still committed to Haines. "There's a little bit of disconnect between my next chapter in life and (my commitment to Haines), but I've had a knack for figuring these things out in the past," Fullerton said. "I trust that will happen."


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