Photo by Carol Spags Photography. Bryan Whitner, 1998 Haywood Community College criminal justice graduate, was named Outstanding Alumni of the Year Award recipient for 2018. Whitner recently retired as chief of the Canton Police Department. Pictured is Whitner addressing the attendees of HCC’s recent graduation ceremony.

Bryan Whitner, 1998 Haywood Community College criminal justice graduate, was named Outstanding Alumni of the Year Award recipient for 2018. Whitner recently retired as chief of the Canton Police Department. He dedicated more than 30 years of service to the citizens of Canton and Haywood County.

Perhaps one of the most notable accomplishments under Whitner’s leadership was obtaining law enforcement accreditation for the Canton Police Department through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. This placed the department as one of the top 5 percent of law enforcement agencies to gain accreditation in the United States based on size.  

From an early age, Whitner was interested in law enforcement. Growing up with a father working for the Town of Waynesville, he was around officers throughout his childhood. At the age of 20, Whitner was sworn in with the Waynesville Police Department where he worked part-time for a few months before starting full-time with the Canton force. He worked his way through the ranks from patrol officer, to sergeant, lieutenant and finally captain. He was lead criminal investigator for 17 years.

Whitner chose to attend HCC because of the reputation of the criminal justice program. “I was working full-time so I needed to stay in the community,” he explains. “HCC has a rich tradition of providing quality education. The College has always been great at reaching out to our community. They also do a great job of changing with the times.”

In addition, Whitner notes that the instructors in the criminal justice program were knowledgeable and helpful. Whitner was nominated for the Outstanding Alumni Award by one of his instructors, Richard Lance. “While never forgetting HCC, Bryan has provided many jobs to graduates,” the nomination form reads. “He has devoted countless hours to community service, supported town efforts at every turn, and provided honest, dependable service to our town and county.” 

This service has come in many forms. Whitner has aided several committees such as Child Fatality Review, Kids Advocacy Resource, Law Enforcement Planning Committee, DWI Task Force and HCC Curriculum Advisory Committee.

Whitner notes that serving in a small town often means community-oriented policing. “We have a lot of older citizens in our community that count on us. We would find ourselves helping these people with duties that don’t really fall under policing. We have put up smoke detectors and repaired screen windows. If you can’t take a step back and get away from the badge theory, you can’t be successful in a small town.”

One of the biggest reasons Whitner wanted to go into law enforcement was to help people. His goal was to garner respect from both citizens and co-workers. “Through my service, I hope the community saw strong leadership and professionalism. I hope I did some good and developed everlasting relationships.”  

Whitner recalls the most stressful occasions on the force when a weapon was pulled on him on two separate occasions. “Neither time did the weapon fire,” he says. “The good Lord was with me.”

After finishing HCC, Whitner continued his education at Western Carolina University where he received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice in 2006.

For more information about HCC, please visit haywood.edu or call 828-627-2821.