Seeing justice twice

Identical twins both on the beat for Juneau police

Posted: Friday, June 09, 2000

Identical twins Blain and Paul Hatch not only look alike but also have the same job: Juneau police officer.

But they didn't always agree on their choice of vocation. ``My brother always wanted to be one, but I thought, `Are you nuts?''' said Blain.

He changed his mind when he was in his late teens and Juneau Police Lt. Ron Forneris took him along on patrol for a couple of hours. ``It was wild and crazy. It looked like fun,'' Blain Hatch decided.

``It's unique and sometimes comical because they are identical; they're like bookends,'' said Police Chief Mel Personett.

``They are really neat guys, and separate individuals -- as well as each other's best friends. We had to separate them because people don't believe they're twins, because of the problem of identification. And also because of the Sullivan Brothers in World War II. But it's been a real positive thing for everybody involved'' to have twins on the force, Personett said.

(The five Sullivan Brothers served on the heavy cruiser USS Juneau during World War II. When all five went down with the ship, the Navy set a policy that does not allow siblings or family members to serve on the same ship.)

The Hatch twins were born in Utah 30 years ago. When they were two months old, they moved to Funter Bay, where their maternal grandfather, Louis Love, was a commercial fisherman. Blain has been with the police department for seven years as of June 1. Paul's ninth anniversary is coming up in November.

Each has certain specialties within law enforcement. Blain attended DWI instructor school and arson investigation school. He participates in the Kid Safe program, which teaches children how to cross streets, how to bike safely, and about the importance of wearing bicycle helmets.

Blain is also a child safety seat technician. Over 90 percent of child safety seats are installed incorrectly because they vary so much, he said. ``If somebody needs help, they can make an appointment, drive up and I check it out,'' he said.

Paul knew earlier than Blain that he wanted to be a police officer.

``I was in awe of an officer in uniform when I was in middle school,'' Paul said. ``And I liked the idea of being a good guy.'' As he becomes older, what he likes is the variety: ``You are not stuck behind a desk all the time.''

Paul attended college in Florida for two years before his stint at the state Public Safety Academy in Sitka.

His specialties include being radar instructor for the department and serving as a field training officer for new officers during their 14-week training.

Both are married. Blain and his wife, Tiffany, a dental hygienist, are the parents of a 20-month-old daughter, Lauren.

Paul and his wife, Sharon, a self-employed music teacher, have three children: Justin, 5; Julian, 2; and 5-month-old Cory.

Both serve on the summer bike patrol. ``You get out of a police car and get to interact, big time,'' Paul said.

Blain finishes his thought: ``You are more mobile and it keeps you in shape.''

The differences between the twins include height. Blain is 6-foot-4. Paul is 6-foot-2. And Blain is three minutes older.

Blain takes pride in the fact that he has solved two burglaries in progress in his years on night shift. One was near Lewis Motors early this year. He saw a suspicious man walking at one o'clock in the morning.

``He told me he was walking from a friend's house, but as I left I saw a truck parked with steam coming off the hood and footprints going into cars and into Construction Machinery.''

He called for backup, and found the suspicious person hiding in the woods.

About six years ago, he apprehended a boy, 15, who kept trying to pull a gun and had another seven guns in a backpack. The boy had hidden in Western Auto until it was closed. When alarms went off, authorities couldn't find anyone and thought it was a false alarm. Blain hung around and spotted the boy trying to leave half an hour later.

For the last six years, they've worked 12-hour shifts, and typically work opposite each other. However, when shifts were eight hours long, they sometimes worked together. This occasionally led to amusing mix-ups.

``Nobody ever believes we are twins until they see us again. If I say, `You probably talked to my brother,' they say, `Yeah, right','' Paul said. ``And dispatch can't tell us apart on the radio.''

Once, responding to a call, they were taken for pink elephants: ``This intoxicated guy looks at me on one side and then at my brother on his other side, and then down at the beer in his hand. And Blain says, `Yes, we're twins,' and the guy lifts his can of Bud and glugs it down,'' Paul recalled.

What keeps them in law enforcement? ``The variety of work and doing the best I can do, and treating people the best I would want to be treated in an emergency,'' Blain said. ``We are the first response. Emotions are high, and people aren't always thinking their best.''

``We're sworn to `protect the citizens and the innocent,' and a call just the other day brought that back to me,'' Paul said.

The call was a domestic assault. ``The woman was small and petite and the man towered over her,'' Paul said. ``I stood as a wall between them, and the man was in my face and her face, taunting her. It was a good feeling that I can legitimately help people who can't really help themselves; I can protect them. It's a nice feeling. And the guy went to jail,'' he added.

Blain agreed: ``It's nice to make a difference once in a while.''

For kids considering law enforcement, Blain's advice is, ``You've got to keep your nose clean and be well-rounded. You have to have common sense and intelligence. You have to be able to multi-task and have the ambition to make a difference in the community.''

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