It was early in the morning when David Hein received the news. He turned on the police scanner in his home to get more details. Another shooting had taken place. The number of people killed was fuzzy. Yet, the impact the shooting would have on the community was not. And while the shooting took place hundreds of miles from Dyer, it hit close to home.
“I definitely put myself in their shoes,” explains the current Dyer Chief of Police of the Colorado theater shooting that took place this past summer. “We go through a massive amount of training, but I would be lying if I don’t look at some of these police chiefs of small towns such as ours who end up on CNN after these kinds of tragedies.” admits Hein. “I definitely rehearse in my head what I would do and how we would handle it if it ever happened here.”
Since "here" has been his home all of his life, Hein says he lives and breathes Dyer. In fact, it was here where all of his other friends spent their growing up years dreaming of becoming sports stars or police officers, Hein was dreaming of a day when he could spend his days and nights driving a truck.
“Yes, I wanted to be a truck driver,” chuckles Hein, who was named Chief of Police earlier this year after serving 16 years on the Dyer Police force. “I have countless pictures of me as a little kid taking pictures alongside semi trucks that we would see on our travels.”
Perhaps the moment that propelled Hein pursue a career in public service had nothing to do with trucks, but more about a man who Hein had looked up to all of his life. “My grandfather passed away when I was about 9-years-old,” says Hein, husband of Amy and father of 7-year-old David and 5-year-old Dylan. “He was a longtime Chicago fireman, and now that I look back, maybe public service was in my system all along.”
It simply took Hein’s first brush with the law to ensure in his mind how he wanted to spend the rest of his life. “I was 18-years-old, and there was an occasion where I had to deal with the Dyer Police Department,” he explains. “It was a car accident, and I specifically remember the sergeant talking to us rather nicely and very professionally. From that moment on, all I wanted to do was find out how I too could become a cop.”
Hein proceeded to work as a volunteer in the Fire Department for a number of years before taking jobs throughout the Dyer Police Department. “As a volunteer fireman, you do everything for nothing in terms of compensation,” he says. “But it truly became my calling. I ended up wearing every public safety uniform I could.”
A dedication to the town of Dyer is something on display with Hein whether he is in his police uniform or not. Whether checking out a little league game at the local ball field or attending a local cub scout meeting, family members say that no one loves Dyer more than Hein.
“To this day, you can throw (David) in any situation with any group of people and he will become the leader,” explains his sister Debbie Gaines. “He never sits back. He always wants to make things better and connect people and help people work together.”
These days, Hein says he has a number of goals for his department, including increasing community involvement and better advertising to the public just what the police force does on a day to day basis. “Increasing crime trends are all around us,” he says. “We want to put up a virtual brick wall around Dyer against these trends. By far, my biggest fear is that someone who works for me is going to get hurt out there. Some of our officers are doing incredibly dangerous things behind the scenes, whether working undercover or working within Homeland Security. In my position now, I spend more time pushing paper and doing budgets. But yes, there is a guilt that I struggle with that something that I tell my officers to do will end up getting them hurt.”
Of course, visiting schools and attending baseball games also rank high among Hein’s most rewarding moments as Police Chief. “There is nothing better than to sit in some of the same classrooms that I grew up in and see my old teachers and explain to these young people that if they want to ever grow up to become a police chief, they can,” he says. “I certainly did.”
So when does a Chief of Police get to relax?
“Never … if you ask my wife,” Hein chuckles. “Kids and family always come first but my job is a pretty close second.”