Posted 12/23/09 (Wed)
By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer
A lot can happen in 33 years. There are changes, both good and bad, happy times and sad ones, and of course, many learning experiences and chances for teaching. As Watford City’s Police Chief Daryl Vance prepares for retirement, he reflects on some of the memorable moments of his 38 years in law enforcement.
“I started this career as a part-time deputy in Williston in 1972 and moved to Watford City Chief of Police on July 1, 1975,” says Vance. “The highlight of my career is that even though I know the time has come for me to step down, I still enjoy the job today.”
Vance will officially retire on March 15, 2010, but due to medical issues, he will be on sick leave beginning Jan. 1, 2010.
“I’ve had COPD, a chronic lung disease, for more than 20 years and I think I’ve made a good run of it,” says Vance. “But, the time has come for me to step down and take care of some health issues.”
After 38 years in the field, it’s hard to believe that Vance went to college with the intention of being an art teacher. When he entered law enforcement, he planned for it to be just a temporary thing.
“Back in 1972, budgets were tight and there weren’t many schools looking for art teachers,” says Vance. “When I saw that Williams County was looking for a part-time deputy I thought it would be an interesting job to do for a little while. My plan was to stay for a couple of years and move on to bigger and better things.”
It didn’t take Vance long to decide that he liked working in law enforcement, and after moving to Watford City in 1975, it soon became home.
“Being the police chief in a small town like Watford City is like having a big extended family,” says Vance. “There are a lot of good people here, and even though I didn’t plan to stay originally, this quickly became home. And even though I’m retiring, I have no intention of leaving the area.”
“I worked for Daryl for 22 years as a police officer and as sheriff another three years. On a professional level, I will miss his cooperative attitude,” says Ron Rankin, McKenzie County sheriff. “While working with Daryl, there are two things I noticed right away. The first is that he is very intelligent and the second is that he has a great sense of humor. He can spin a yarn better then most people I know.”
One of the biggest and most difficult memories came on March 20, 1996 when Vance’s fellow officer and friend, Keith Braddock, was shot and killed in the line of duty.
“Keith’s death was devastating to the entire community. A lot of good people were hurt by a senseless act,” says Vance. “That was a difficult time to be in law enforcement, but that’s part of the job, dealing with the good and the bad days.”
Amongst his many memories, a good memory for Vance was the introduction of computers to the world of law enforcement.
“When I first started this career, you took crime notes on whatever was handy,” adds Vance. “Today, everything is recorded into the computer and the access is much easier. We also depend on computers to help with crime solving.”
According to Vance, although the computer hasn’t allowed for less paperwork, it has made for more efficient police officers over the years.
“Along with the computers, better education has made my job better,” states Vance. “Of course, that doesn’t mean that we have better officers today than we did 30 some years ago. But, it does help.”
As he leaves his post, Vance knows he will miss the job, but he has no concerns about the Watford City City Council’s ability to find a suitable replacement.
“What I will miss most about Vance is the fact that if you were hurt, sick or had family problems, he was always there to assist and give you the time you needed to get things in order, without any questions,” adds Rankin. “I’m sure we will still have coffee together, because I don’t see him leaving town. But he will be missed as a counterpart.”
“Watford City is a great community and its leaders are very pro-law,” comments Vance. “Those are two things that will help to attract candidates and I plan to help out with whatever I can until the new chief is settled in and ready to go.”