SITKA — The longest-serving sworn officer in the Sitka Police Department has worked under five different police chiefs and alongside some 150 different employees in the department.
On Monday, Lt. Barry Allen looked ready for retirement, dressed uncharacteristically in a sweatshirt and Carhartts for his final day on the job, handling mostly paperwork.
“After 25-plus years in, I’m looking for a change of pace in life,” Allen said. He turned in his uniform Friday morning.
Allen and his wife Marcie will settle in an area outside Nenana, on a hillside overlooking the Tanana River and the Alaska Range.
“We’ve got a million-dollar view,” said Allen. “We were looking for a little room, which is hard to get in Sitka. ... As far as pretty places go, you can’t beat Sitka.”
Police Chief Sheldon Schmitt described Allen as “one of the rocks of the department,” and his own “security blanket.”
“He knows everybody, and is remarkably thorough,” the chief said. “It’s a huge loss. I feel like I’m working without a net to a certain degree. ... He’s one of a handful of guys I’ve been extremely fortunate to work with. I have a lot of respect for him: he’s the epitome of what a law enforcement officer should be.”
At the same time, Schmitt said he understands Allen’s desire to move on. “He’s done his time,” Schmitt said.
Allen is rare as a police officer in that he has worked his entire career in a single department, the chief said.
Allen was born in Idaho, and in 1977 moved with his family to Valdez where his dad was a commercial fisherman. After graduating from Valdez High School, he served in the Army, assigned to an airborne unit at Fort Bragg, N.C.
Although Allen had originally dreamed of becoming a pilot, he knew he couldn’t be because he is slightly color blind. As an outdoor enthusiast, his next choice was Fish and Wildlife Protection, but after he put himself through the Alaska Public Safety Academy, and working briefly as the Valdez animal control officer, the first law enforcement opening was with the Sitka Police Department. He was hired in 1987.
Allen worked his way through the ranks at SPD, first as a patrolman and rising to patrol sergeant over 13 years.
After a brief two-year hiatus in 2000-2001, when he moved south and worked as a truck driver, he was rehired by Chief Bob Gorder as a detective in connection with the Southeast Alaska Cities Against Drugs task force. In 2005, Chief Schmitt promoted him to lieutenant, a position he has held ever since. Only multi-service officer Judy Puckett has served longer in the SPD.
Allen said he has enjoyed the work in Sitka.
“There’s a lot of good people in Sitka — we’re dealing with a small percentage of the population,” he said. Most of the arrests are “weekend warriors” — people who get into trouble on weekends, Allen said.
“There are a few bad people in there who deserve to be put in prison,” he added.
In all his duties in the department, Allen said, he has enjoyed being lieutenant the best, where he supervises the jail, dispatch, animal control, investigations, traffic and animal control. As lieutenant, he is the second-highest ranking person at SPD.
“I get involved in every aspect of the department,” he said. “My attention gets divided between those jobs, but I have a part in all of them. You get to see the whole dynamic of the department.”
Reflecting on the past 27 years, Allen said the biggest change that has occurred in his work at SPD came with the closure of the Alaska Pulp Corp. mill.
“It changed the demographic of the community,” he said. “It went from a blue collar working community to more of a mix.” Allen said today there seems to be less of that “work hard, play hard” mentality, and along with it fewer disorderly conduct calls.
Not only has Sitka changed, but Allen has changed, too.
“At age 25, you have a tendency to be a little idealistic,” he said. “I’ve mellowed over the years. After you have a few miles, you realize you’re not any better than anyone you’re dealing with. You need to temper it with compassion and humanity: the world is not black and white. Somebody — even though they’ve got chronic issues — they’re still human and prone to human feelings. I am too — I’ve made some pretty grand mistakes in my time.”
Allen still has family here and expects to make regular visits to Sitka.
He will be replaced as lieutenant by Jeff Ankerfelt, who comes to Sitka from Brooklyn Park, Minn., with more than 23 years of law enforcement experience under his belt. Schmitt said Ankerfelt should be a good fit for Sitka.
Information from: Daily Sitka (Alaska) Sentinel, http://www.sitkasentinel.com/