Hoquiam Police Officer Phil High, a 10-year veteran of the force, died at his home in Ocean Shores last week. According to a GoFundMe page posted to benefit his family, High “lost his battle with PTSD and took his own life.”
Police Chief Jeff Myers released a statement Wednesday, remembering High as a compassionate officer who went the extra mile for his community and fellow officers.
“In his 10 years with Hoquiam PD, Officer High was an outstanding patrol officer who acted with diligence, respect and compassion,” said Myers. Known on the force as “PH,” High was “unflappable and never seemed to come across a person or situation he could not de-escalate or find some sort of common ground toward a productive solution.”
In addition to his patrol duties — he preferred to work nights — High was also a designated field training officer, arson investigator, negotiator on the Aberdeen Regional Crisis Response Team and a member of the department’s collision investigation team.
“As if these duties were not enough, Officer High also volunteered — or maybe we volunteered him because of his organizational skills — to be our department accreditation manager,” said Myers. “Under PH’s leadership, determination and ability, he was able organize our department policies, procedures, proofs and practices to meet or exceed all of the 146 accreditation standards as set forth by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.”
High led the department through its first successful accreditation effort in 2013, and in December of that year, Myers presented him with the department’s Award for Meritorious Service for his efforts. High again lent his leadership to the successful re-accreditation process in 2017.
“He was working on getting us prepared for re-accreditation again in 2021,” said Myers.
High and his wife, Molly, organized the department’s “Chief for a Day” program, in which three kids suffering from serious medical issues got to enjoy station tours, a tugboat ride, a trip to the police academy in Burien, and gifts and special trips.
“They were the department contacts for our little chiefs and their families,” said Myers. “They collected the generous donations from our community and spent days shopping and wrapping gifts. Not only did PH and Molly make sure our little chiefs were covered, but they got to know each family member and make sure their day was also special.”
The Grays Harbor Masonic Lodge awarded High its Hoquiam Police officer of the year award in 2017 for his work on the Chief for a Day program.
High, described as a quiet and private person who “would often show his dry sense of humor and quick wit when least expected,” came to Hoquiam from the Ocean Shores Police Department in 2010. He started his career in law enforcement with the Blaine County Sheriff’s Department in Idaho before moving to the Harbor and taking a job with the state Department of Corrections. High was also an Army veteran.
High was one of the Hoquiam officers fired on by a suspect at a residence on Aberdeen Avenue in March 2013 at the onset of what would become a 20-hour standoff. High was with Sgt. Jeff Salstrom, who was wounded when the suspect, who was wanted on a felony real estate fraud warrant from California, opened fire. The suspect was eventually shot and killed by SWAT team members when he refused to drop his weapon.
While still working full-time and taking care of his family, High returned to school and in 2015 was able to complete his master’s degree in public administration with a graduate certificate in Public Human Resources Management from Penn State University. At the time of his death, High was pursuing a doctoral degree and had been working on completing his clinical hours at a local medical facility.
”PH was a huge part of this department,” said Myers. “We have been grieving this past week, just as his family has been grieving and struggling with their loss.”
High leaves behind a wife and stepson and “many loving and caring family members who are devastated beyond words and which emotions cannot convey,” said Myers.
A memorial service will be held at the Ocean Shores Convention Center at 1 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 1, officiated by Hoquiam’s Police Department Chaplain and organized by the Behind the Badge Foundation.
“Feb. 1 is PH’s 10-year anniversary with HPD and this day will be a celebration of his life and service to our community,” said Myers. “The public and our fellow first responders are encouraged to attend; we believe this would be a strong message to Officer High’s family that we appreciate his work and his sacrifice as a law enforcement officer.”
Aberdeen Police personnel will be covering Hoquiam’s patrol and jail shifts so department members can attend the memorial, added Myers.
A Phil High Memorial Account has been established; donations may be made at any branch of the Bank of the Pacific to help cover family memorial and living expenses. There is also a GoFundMe account, https://www.gofundme.com/f/phillip-high-family-fund, established online for the same purpose.
The family is asking for loving memories and stories about Officer High to be shared at email@example.com.
“I want to personally thank all the members of the community and our public safety peers who have reached out to lend a hand, or just lend an ear,” said Myers. “We know Officer High’s family is devastated and we ask everyone to be sensitive and respectful to their loss.”
Myers added, “At this time, I feel the best way to honor PH is to remember the difference he made in so many lives. To recognize his sacrifice. And to remember that no matter what, there is always hope.”