Q & A with Chris “Stretch” Rutledge

An Interview with a Miami-Dade Police Officer


Chris “Stretch” Rutledge is a proud member of the Miami-Dade Police Department and has been protecting the people and streets of MIA for 16 years. Travel Channel caught up with Stretch to learn a little more about him and how he handles the busy world of Miami International Airport.

You’re six-eight; is it right to assume that that’s how you got your nickname, “Stretch”?
Along with my height, the average person has to literally hyper-extend their neck in order to talk to me face-to-face or even look up to me. So many people, when confronting me, make hand gestures stating “you’re so tall,” almost like stretching a rubber band vertically. It also had to do with my reaching ability as well as my walking stride -- pretty much all of these spell my nickname “Stretch.”

Being so tall and working at an airport, how comfortable are you on an airplane? Are there other things that are made difficult by your height?
Buying a car, bed or clothes for example? Most aircraft is uncomfortable unless I sit in the exit aisles. In most cases, sitting under tables at various restaurants and sporting events are often not comfy, as well.

The Miami International Airport staff calls you “MIA’s Gentle Giant.” Are people at the airport intimidated by your height?
I wouldn’t call my height here at the airport intimidating, more like fascinating. People enjoy standing next to me and measuring themselves. Most people try to guess my height. Some are off by several inches while a few hit it within a couple inches, and even fewer hit it on the head.

Let’s talk favorites; favorite food?
My favorite foods are seafood and various pasta dishes.

Favorite sport?
As far as my favorite sport, I seem to favor basketball, but love to watch a wide variety of sports on TV as well as in person.

Favorite team?
I love all my Florida teams.

Favorite movie?
I have many. But if I had to say one, then it would have to be Scarface.

What’s on your iPod right now?
I don’t own an iPod.

Being in Miami, did people ever confuse you with former University of Miami offensive lineman Chris Rutledge?
Well, being he is my son, there was no confusion -- seeing that I’m 6’8” and 240 lbs. while my son, Chris Jr., is 6’6” and 315 lbs. What was confusing (in a funny manner) was who to call “Big Chris.”

Are you a motorcycle or a car guy?
I like both; it depends on the weather and my mood.

Do you have a favorite motorcycle or car brand?
Due to my height, I like motorcycles that fit and cars that are sporty, stick shift and roomy.

You were previously a bus driver before joining law enforcement. What prompted you to make that switch?
My childhood dream was to be a sanitation tech AKA a garbage man. I thought it was fascinating to see those guys with the big colorful buckets on their shoulders walking through the neighborhood, making a difference. Fast forward several years, I became a transit bus operator with benefits and a decent retirement which later led me to become a Law Enforcement Officer (LEO). As a LEO, I could deliver excellent public service that address our communities’ needs and enhance our quality of life.

Part of your job is to keep people moving smoothly around the pick-up and drop-off areas. What are a few tips that you wish every passenger and driver would know to make your job easier?
Not to be afraid to call MIA and obtain info on where our easily-accessible cell phone lot/waiting area is as well as any other pertinent information.

What was the best day you had on the job at MIA?
Whenever I’m involved with the arrival of our residents’ visits of past and present.

What was the worst day you had on the job at MIA?
I was the lead crash investigator on a serious crash involving a young child.

What is the craziest thing you’ve ever found or heard while patrolling MIA?
A traveler using the word “bomb” while here at MIA.

If you could tell MIA visitors/travelers one thing, what would it be?
Your safety is my primary concern while you’re here at my airport.

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