By EMILY ARTHUR
ABERDEEN, S.D. - More than 15 years ago, Daryl VanDover was working as an emergency dispatcher in Aberdeen when he heard about an opening at the police department.
Police work was something he'd always wanted to do, so he jumped at the chance.
"That was my way in," said VanDover.
Sixteen years later, VanDover, who was promoted to sergeant about four years ago, hasn't looked back. He's still doing the job he loves - only now he's being recognized for it.
On April 17, VanDover was honored by the American Legion as the area officer of the year. Next month, he will be honored as the state officer of the year.
"It's really nice to be recognized," said the 48-year-old VanDover. "It is a real honor, and I just hope I can live up to the expectations that come with it and continue to serve the community."
Capt. Dave McNeil of the Aberdeen Police Department doesn't think that will be a problem.
"We are very fortunate to have him as part of the police department," McNeil said. "He's done a tremendous job. As a senior officer and a sergeant inside our agency, he gives a lot of motivation to all the rest of the officers. He encourages them."
VanDover was nominated by the department's administration based on a set of criteria focused largely on community service. Other qualifications included professional and career record and heroism.
VanDover has volunteered at the Boys and Girls Club of Aberdeen for the last five years, he's a mentor at his church - First United Methodist in Aberdeen - and he's also in charge of the police department's reserve officer program. Over the years, he's also served as a D.A.R.E. officer and was the officer at Northern State University for one year.
"The community service portion is a really big part of the award," McNeil said. "You talk about his work with the Boys and Girls Club, and you're able to see he's really made a difference in some lives. Then to talk about the reserve program: He basically started it. He went out and found people who were a really good fit for our community and our department."
VanDover also works as the crisis negotiator for the department. McNeil said the qualities that make VanDover a good officer are the same things that help him in those difficult situations.
"He's very, very approachable and a very good communicator," he said. "He's able to talk to anybody on any level and that's key. He has a realistic approach to policing."
VanDover and his wife CrysoLyn live in Aberdeen. The couple have two grown children.
Aberdeen officer named S.D. Officer of the Year