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Port Police Officer Wants to Make a Difference

August 31, 2022

For Port of Seattle Police Department Officer Ryan Cody-Berry, a career as a first responder runs in the family. Growing up in San Francisco, both his parents were firefighters and other relatives worked in law enforcement.

“I saw how rewarding and how challenging it was being a first responder,” he said. “My parents would come home ecstatic after a good shift and would want to talk about it and the people they got to help. You get to do things in a positive way which outweighs by far every negative thing that happens.”

Cody-Berry was drawn to law enforcement because it felt more proactive than other first responder careers. He started taking steps toward becoming a police officer while he was in college at Washington State University, interning with the WSU Police Department as a cadet.

He graduated into a competitive hiring market, so a recruiter advised him that taking a job that holds public trust would give him an advantage. In 2017 he started working at the Port of Seattle Police Department (POSPD) as a dispatcher, intending to pursue a career as a police officer. After going through an internal hiring process, he became a police officer in 2019.

His experience as a dispatcher provided useful knowledge about the geography of Port properties and radio procedures and languages. Because he already knew the facilities when he started work as a police officer, he could focus on learning the essential duties like writing reports, keeping everyone safe, and working with and talking to people in diverse communities.

A unique department

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As a police officer, Cody-Berry is currently assigned to a variety of special units and responsibilities, including the Valley Crowd Management Unit team, Police Mountain Biking Association certification (allowing him to patrol by bike in the terminal), firearms instructor, and the Valley SWAT team.

“Being able to do all of that in the first three years of your career is not something that happens at other agencies,” he said. “At the Port, you are available for advancement and specialty team assignments pretty early in your career. Other agencies have rotating terms and don’t have as many opportunities since many of their specialty assignments are regional.”

During roll call, POSPD officers get daily assignments. On any given day, officers might be patrolling and responding to calls in the airport terminal, monitoring airport roadways and the parking garage and rental car facilities, or making the rounds on nearly 30 miles of Port-owned waterfront from Northern Tukwila to Golden Gardens in Ballard.

“A lot of people believe working as a cop at an airport means you don't do police work — you’re pushing grandma in the wheelchair to get to the gate on time or helping with lost bags, and customer service. But there is real police work and the beautiful thing about working here is there is enough police work to keep you busy, but you are not so busy you are just going from call to call. This gives you enough time to be proactive. The Port environment offers that opportunity.”

Cody-Berry said his favorite part of the job is talking to people from different backgrounds and walks of life. He also appreciates the quality of people POSPD hires and getting to know coworkers. He loves feeling like he is making a difference, being proactive, and stopping something before it happens.

Built for success

He said diversity within the department is a priority in terms of hiring and working with the community.

“Some folks in the community might feel more comfortable working with someone from their culture who understands their community. In this job you can connect with people from all walks of life. Without diversity on staff it’s harder to connect with the community and show that you are inclusive and accepting. It’s necessary to maintain a good community presence.”

To be successful in the job, Cody-Berry said officers need a lot of integrity and a strong moral compass.

“In the middle of a situation, you have to be able to make a split-second decision, and you have to be able to make the right decision. You need good judgement and the desire to do the right things for the right reasons,” he said. “You need to be a good communicator; 90% of the job is talking to people of all different cultures, walks of life, nationalities, genders, lifestyles, and you need to be accepting of everyone you come in contact with."

Essential skills according to Cody-Berry are intelligence, the ability to read and write well, and sound logic. Potential police officers need to be 100 percent committed and have a support system in place.

“It’s going to take a lot of your time and 1000 eyes are watching you on the job,” he said. “You need to be flexible too; you can’t be so set in your ways or thought process that you can’t move past a set point. You need to be able to problem solve in evolving situations; every day and every call is different than the last, so you need to manage that.”

Supportive culture

The Port Police Department offers a great schedule, competitive pay, great benefits like a retirement package, and medical insurance for life if you retire from the Port. Many people are promoted after two to three years.

“It’s a good department if you are looking to advance your career,” Cody-Berry said. “You are busy but not overwhelmed. You can talk to and help people from all different walks of life in a really unique environment.”

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