BONNERS FERRY — The Bonners Ferry Police Department has gained a North Idaho native with 29 years of law enforcement experience. Bonners Ferry Assistant Police Chief Marty Ryan started just before Thanksgiving last year.
Born and raised in Sandpoint, Ryan then began his career in 1989 with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). It was an exciting yet difficult time period for a young officer.
“As a young man, I was fully aware I was a part of world history all of a sudden,” said Ryan. “I was able to see something and witness it in that manner, but at the same time, it was just heart crushing, to see a place that I had such pride in, and such respect for, to be so unfairly tainted.”
Ryan was still a part of the LAPD when the North Hollywood shootout happened in 1997, a confrontation between two armed and armored bank robbers and members of the LAPD in the North Hollywood district of Los Angeles.
“I had two of my classmates shot during that event. It was very personal. It was a very hard event to have happen,” said Ryan. “Shortly after that, we made a decision that it was best to move.”
Ryan and his wife came back home to North Idaho.
“Bonners at that point still felt like — and still does to this day — like a blue collar town,” said Ryan. “We still have mills running. I like the sight of logging trucks. I like being around the people who work and live in these kind of communities … it just feeds my soul.”
When Ryan moved to Bonners Ferry, he immediately met the local law enforcement, including Dave Kramer, Rick Alonzo, and Jake Negley.
“I was really impressed with the local police department,” Ryan said. “The next thing I know, I’m a cop and I’m pushing a patrol car around.’
After a while, Ryan’s life took a turn when he got the opportunity to buy an old homestead farmhouse in eastern Montana.
“Absolutely the middle of nowhere — another fantasy checklist of mine,” Ryan said. “I wasn’t in town but a few months, and what do you know, I am back doing police work in eastern Montana.”
“Each time, I think I’m probably done doing police work now, but police work is who I am, it is what I have been since I was a young man,” explained Ryan. “So I copped over there for a little bit. We had our fun, we renovated, fed a lot of cows and drove a tractor, and all of these little things I wanted to try doing in my life, and then Dave Kramer invited me back to work here again.”
Ryan came back and worked in Bonners Ferry, then his career took him down to Bonner County for about eight years, where he ran their drug task force as a detective, eventually retiring as a detective sergeant.
“It was really a phenomenal time,” said Ryan. “We did things in Bonner County that no one has ever really done before. We did a year long undercover operation that was never pulled off to its liking before.”
Ryan admits to being addicted to adventure, at the same time, wanting to just enjoy life and his community. He says that he is lucky to have married his best friend who absolutely feels and supports that same things, embracing the adventures in their life.
“I very much enjoy that challenge, and overcoming obstacles, and taking on threats and problems in this world that I have not had a chance yet to confront,” explained Ryan. “So it had led me to chase a few things down the road … which is probably why I went to Los Angeles in the first place. It was the biggest fight going on at the time.”
In 2013, Ryan took on a new challenge, heading to Afghanistan on a Department of Defense Contract where they hire law enforcement officers and embed them with certain elements of the military, helping to bring the civilian law enforcement investigator experience to the field.
“It is one of the most powerful things that I have ever done in my life.” said Ryan. “This was such a rewarding, neat program, that when I heard about it, I just had to get my life arranged and get in a position where I could go and do it.”
The job tested Ryan, not only in having to leave his family behind, but also after 20-plus years in the field, to be physically fit enough to throw on a 40 pound ruck and run across a field and jump in a Blackhawk, all the while hanging out with guys who were half his age.
“I spent almost nine months embedded with Special Forces, in a team made up of undercover Afghanistan investigators, working near the Pakistan border,” explained Ryan. “It was a phenomenal experience.”
In two separate trips, spanning from 2013 to 2017, and lasting about two and half years, Ryan spent time training, advising, and Investigating, utilizing his skills that he had honed over the years.
“You look at insurgent cells, and some of the enemies that we face along with Afghanistan, they are just criminal organizations,” said Ryan.
According to Ryan, the insurgent cells cultivate and producing opium and heroin, distributing it throughout the world, as well as moving large scale weapon caches between nations.
“A lot of the investigative skills that we have developed doing what we do, come in very valuable over there,” explained Ryan. “It was almost like the same job, only a little bit different, certainly in environment, but the targets were a lot larger.”
Instead of dealing with a small town drug operations, they handled much larger scale amounts, like 300 kilos of opium, or weapons caches containing AT4 anti tank mines and RPGs.
“Just to be a part of that, to help them be more successful in taking on these threats over there — I can’t imagine my life being complete if I hadn’t taken the time to go and do that,” said Ryan.
“The more I see of the world, the more I cherish this little town, and the more that you feel like this is truly the greatest place in the world to live,” said Ryan.
Once home, Ryan kept busy with a successful business, until he started to feel the calling again. He reached out to Boundary County Sheriff Dave Kramer to ask about doing a ride along, and maybe volunteering some time to help.
“The next thing you know, Zimmerman reaches out to me with this offer of taking over the assistant chief position,” said Ryan.
“I ride with (Bonners Ferry Police Sgt. Willie Cowell), meet some of these guys, and I am thinking if Brian Zimmerman is the chief of police, you got Dave Kramer as sheriff, how do you not come back to work?” said Ryan. “If you are going to make one more leg in your career, do it one more time, how do you not do it here, right now, in this place that we love so much, with these kind of leaders that we have right now?”
Ryan feels that Police Chief Brian Zimmerman truly has a vision of what a small town, professional department should be, as evidenced by the individuals he has chosen to fill his ranks.
“Truly some of the finest character, ambitious, and caring young men I have had the pleasure to serve with over the past 29 years,” said Ryan. “So if somehow, with whatever skill set and experience I have, I can help him achieve his goals, then I will know I have done my job.”
Zimmerman is equally pleased to have Ryan working on his team.
“Anyone who has ever worked with, or even just met Marty, knows that there are very few people this world who can match the caliber of leadership and experience in law enforcement, that he brings to Bonners Ferry,” said Zimmerman. “We are so fortunate to have him with us. We couldn’t be more blessed.”
“I don’t care where you go or what you do, nothing compares to the feeling you get living in this community. It is almost indescribable, you know?” said Ryan. “To finish up doing something like this — with the type of people that I am working for and with — I feel like the luckiest man in the world right now. I’m simply blown away.”