Sergeant Sean Ahlers
Rockaway Beach Police Department, Oregon
A big guy with a big heart and a reserved smile who is dedicated to his community and fellow first responders.
“I’ve always done something bigger than myself,” he says. His dedication started with his enlistment in the Marine Corps, where he worked in aircraft electronics, or avionics. Born and raised along the Northwest coast, he returned home from military service and worked a handful of public service jobs, but the idea of being a police officer was always there. In 2007, a coworker told him about an opening at Manzanita Police Department and encouraged him to apply. Sean spoke to his wife and they decided it was time for him to give law enforcement a shot. He started his career with Manzanita PD in 2007 and moved down the coast to Rockaway Beach PD in 2016. At Rockaway Beach he found a police department that spoke to his values, was committed to community-oriented policing and was highly professional. Working for a police department that serves a community of 1,300 year-round residents, 5,000 seasonal residents, and in the summer up to 30,000, requires dedication by Sgt Ahlers and his fellow Rockaway Beach PD officers.
In addition to being a police officer Sean also volunteers to aid first responders who are in crisis. “One of the most important things I do, and I get to do it because I am a cop, is I volunteer for Safe Call Now,” he says. Safe Call Now is a crisis line for first responders and their families and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It is staffed by first responders for first responders – when they need help, they know someone on the other end of the line understands how hard the job is, how it can weigh on you. As a Safe Call Now volunteer, he is there to help all first responders and their family members with whatever is going on in their lives. He listens to the caller, identifies what help is needed, then connects him or her with the appropriate resource. Sean learned about Safe Call Now when he was researching additional training for his role as peer support for his agency. The training has helped him to support not only his fellow officers, but also other first responders from across the country.
In his off hours on Tuesday and Thursday nights Sean trades in one uniform for another and assumes his alter identity the Harbinger of Sorrow. It’s not quite as ominous as it sounds nor as Marvel Comics as it could be – Sean is a skating official for the local women’s roller derby team, the Derby Dames.
He chose the name Harbinger of Sorrow for a couple reasons: It sounds like a song title by Metallica (his favorite band) and it foretells the sorrow of the players he sends to the penalty box. Sean became interested in roller derby through his wife, a derby skater, and found himself learning the rules to help friends and other fans on the sidelines understand the game. When the league was short on officials, he took the classes to become a skating official and was sucked into the “derbyverse,” as he puts it.
Sean speaks highly of the derby community, which he likens to a big inclusive family. They don’t worry about your age, condition or skill level, he says. If you want to be involved in roller derby there is a place for you. Sean says the matches are physical, the women are fiercely competitive, and they skate hard – better than he does, he jokes. “Don’t go watch the girls, go watch the 40-year-old men fall down on roller skates – it’s a hoot.”
Each and every day Sean demonstrates what it means to serve your community – from policing with professionalism, ethics and care; to saving the lives of other first responders as the voice on the line at Safe Call Now; to being the Harbinger of Sorrow to derby skaters on the Oregon coast.
We thank Sean for his service to his country, his community and his fellow law enforcement officers.
Story and Pictures by Charlie Simmons, Editing by Kevin Frazzini