‘Family man’ SWAT commander wins officer of the year

American Legion post recognizes father of four after 19 years of service



Officer Ruben Harris of the Pullman Police Department won Officer of the Year from the Maynard-Price American Legion Post 52 discusses what motivates him as an officer.

ZARA CRUDEN, Evergreen reporter

Ruben Harris has served the Pullman Police Department for 19 years, and during that time he has played the role of the officer who inspired him when he was young.

Harris first realized he wanted to join the police force at 14, when a Bellevue officer pulled up to where he and his brother were shooting hoops.

“He said, ‘Which one of you is older? I’ve got 15 minutes,’” Harris recalled, “and he played basketball with us for 15 minutes.”

He said he now pays it forward by stopping to play basketball with kids in Pullman, both on and off duty.

“It’s kind of hard to move in uniform and play with college kids,” he said.

After responding to a recent noise complaint at an apartment, he noticed people shooting hoops outside, he decided to join in for a game of PIG, which he won.

Harris is a father of four who, in his off-duty time, reads to children at the local library and coaches kids’ baseball. Maynard-Price American Legion Post 52 recently awarded him Officer of the Year.

“I didn’t know I was getting the award,” Harris said. “I didn’t even know I was getting anything until the night before.”

He said his wife tipped him off when she insisted he wear his dress uniform to the City Council meeting rather than his regular uniform.

He spends most of his time on the night shift, patrolling in his car on the lookout for people in need of help. He said this brings him up to College Hill a lot of the time.

“I like to be where people are,” Harris said. “I like to interact with people and I like to get out on foot with people.”

Harris’ law enforcement career did not start in Pullman. Before becoming a member of the PPD, he went to college in Idaho and was a reserve officer for the Lewiston Police Department. He tested for police departments from Moscow to Seattle, and Pullman responded to him first.

“The longer I’m here, the more I like it,” Harris said, “I like the community.”

Harris is also the Whitman County SWAT Team commander. As such, he does a lot of training operations planning and organizing. He compared the SWAT Team being called in  with two football teams lined up, ready to go head-to-head, but then having to wait in the ready position for three hours before running a single play and going home. It’s a lot of build up for a little bit of action.

“One of the things that adds a lot of intensity for us,” he said, “is if there are children involved.”

Harris described a possible domestic violence call he received once around 1 a.m. He said everyone was angry and screaming. He checked out the residence to make sure everyone was safe, only to discover four children hiding in a closet.

“I slide the closet door open and I see all these faces and eyes looking back out at me,” he said. “They’re hiding there to get away from this chaos that’s going on around them. Situations like that drive home how important doing my job well is.”

Harris calmed the children, and sometime later, he said, their fear was gone and they were even doing somersaults to show off for him. Harris, himself a father, said he feels very compassionate toward children.

Pullman Police Cmdr. Chris Tennant has worked with Harris for many years.

“He’s a family man first,” Tennant said. “He treats everyone like they’re one big family.”