Blaine police chief Rodger Funk reflects on first three months


Rodger Funk is nearing three months as chief of police in Blaine since starting the position April 15. As he settles into the job, Funk sat down with The Northern Light to share what he’s learned during his career in law enforcement, his approach to policing and his love for trail running. 

Funk grew up primarily in Bellingham and graduated from Sehome High School alongside his now wife. He went on to graduate from Central Washington University with a bachelor’s degree in law and justice and later obtained a master’s degree in management from American Military University, a private online university system.

Funk has 28 years of law enforcement experience at the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO), where his first years were spent as a patrol officer and resident deputy at Baker Lake. He held several high-ranking positions at WCSO, including as chief for investigations and support services, where he oversaw the major crimes and the drug and gang task force bureaus, the records division, evidence unit and civil unit. He most recently served as chief inspector at the professional standards office. 

This interview was edited for clarity and brevity. 

What initially interested you in a career in law enforcement?

When I was a teenager, I worked at Target. Target had security officers who worked undercover and one of those officers, Doug Burks, was a reserve police officer from Bellingham. He was always talking about his experiences and that just really sparked my interest.

He eventually got hired by the sheriff’s office, and I got to spend my career at the sheriff’s office working with him. We were both deputies and sergeants, and went up the ranks together. It was a blast to get to work with him all those years.

Was there something especially that interested you that he had talked about?

That every day was different. They weren’t mundane tasks. We’re always evolving, always growing, there’s lots to learn. 

I liked the idea that I wouldn’t grow stagnant, that it was a job that would always evolve and always have opportunities to learn.

What are the most important lessons you’ve learned over your career?

Patience, empathy and looking for the bigger picture. We can’t judge people by a moment in time. It’s so important for officers to look at every situation they’re in and see that the snapshot of what they’re getting is not reflective of an entire person’s life. 

How do you take those lessons you’ve learned and bring them to your officers?

It’s going to sound kind of silly, but I ask them to slow down. Don’t rush to judgment. Don’t rush your decisions. 

In emergent situations where it’s dangerous, obviously they have to make quick decisions. But try to be thoughtful, try to think through ‘What am I missing?’ so that you’re not making mistakes and you’re thinking of hurdles before you get to them. 

And treat people fair, follow the golden rule of treating others as you want to be treated. We serve everybody. It doesn’t matter what their status is in society, or in the community, or in the country. 

How have you seen law enforcement change since you started your career? 

It’s become much more professional. Technology has changed. The legal expectations for officers to understand the ins and outs of the laws are more complex.

When I first started, you’d go to a call, you need to understand the basics of the law, but it was much more functional. It’s become much more academic and intellectual. 

I think we’re really blessed in Whatcom County, specifically, but on the West Coast in general, that law enforcement is as professional as it is. Officers are expected to be thinkers and problem solvers.

What are your biggest pieces of advice for someone who wants to become a police officer?

I tell people when they first get into law enforcement to write themselves a letter of why they wanted to get into law enforcement and what sparked that interest so that they can maintain that drive. 

I think there’s a distinction between motivation and drive. I want to capture that drive for people. You can motivate people with something shiny, more pay or whatever. Blaine is a prime example of the community offering so much more than just the pay. The satisfaction of support we get from our schools, business members and the community taps into the drive. 

How have you used what you learned at the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office as Blaine police chief?

As chief for investigations and support services, it really opened my eyes to the support services for law enforcement. What faces the community is the patrol car, the uniform, but there’s so much more in the background. The position opened my eyes to evidence management, records management, public disclosure – the behind the scenes things that keep us going. 

In my last position in professional standards, the focus was on labor issues, policy development, employee investigations, ensuring the balance between management and employees were respected. It broadened my perspective with things that you don’t think about earlier in your career that go on in the background.

What are things the Blaine community may not know about their officers?

I don’t think they realize how busy they are. The call volume does not reflect how busy our officers are.

We have officers that have a lot of collateral duties to keep us functioning as a smaller agency. We still have all the requirements that a big agency does, we’re just on a smaller scale. We still have to manage our evidence, public disclosure, vehicle fleet, and we still have the same training requirements. Our officers have those collateral duties to keep all of those things going, whereas a bigger agency may have somebody dedicated to it. 

How have your first three months been as Blaine police chief?

Absolutely fantastic. The welcoming from the community, the officers, the schools, is just overwhelmingly positive. The partnerships that we have amongst all of the departments within the city is fantastic. 

What has your work looked like over the past three months?

I’m getting my bearings, understanding the budget, understanding Blaine policies for both city and police, getting to know my officers, getting to know the community. I’m spending a lot of time getting to know the ins and outs of the city.

What challenges do you see for the Blaine Police Department? 

Recruiting is a challenge. We’re competing against agencies throughout the state trying to hire a limited pool of people. The other challenge, like I mentioned, is we have to do the same things as a bigger agency with a smaller volume of people. 

Where do you see improvements needed in the department? Where do you think the department is doing really well? 

I’m looking for opportunities to improve our efficiencies within our systems, our processes, identifying what our policies and procedures are that can be streamlined. Not that we’re doing anything wrong, but there’s always room to make that process more lean. 

One thing that we do really well, especially our officers, is they’re so compassionate. I stress with our officers that my focus for them is quite simple: I want them to do the right thing at the right time for the right reason.

I’m hearing the officers express that in the work they do. I’ll give an example: Yesterday, we arrested a person for a crime. The person didn’t want to get into a patrol car, and rather than force them into a patrol car, we had a conversation.

The person finally said, “You’re not saying the right thing. You have to say, ‘Por favor.’” It wasn’t their language, they were just being goofy. The officer said, “Fine. No problem. Por favor,” and they climbed in the car. The officer took the time to get the cooperation to do the right thing at the right time for the right reason. 

What are your goals for the next year?

I want to streamline all of our processes so that the knowledge doesn’t rest with any one person, but that it’s shared. I want a model for our officers that everybody is a leader and have them know the expectation that it’s OK to speak up if you have a good idea for improvement. 

What responsibilities do you bear as police chief and how are you working to fulfill those duties?

My ultimate responsibility is the administrative side of the police department, but I have a goal of being a working chief. I want to get out there with the officers in the community and not be stuck behind a desk. I want the community to know who I am. I want the officers to know who I am. 

Outside of work, what do you enjoy doing?

I love running. I’m a trail runner and I’ve run several ultramarathons. My sister is also an ultra runner so she and I do these ultra events. I love being in the backcountry and in the woods. It’s my way of recharging. 

Is there anything else you want the Blaine community to know about you or the police department? 

I’m approachable. If they see me out and about feel free to wave and say hi, invite me over for a conversation. I want to engage in those conversations.  


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