LAPORTE — For LaPorte Police Department Specialist Justin Dyer, a hard day's work isn't anything like "CSI."
One moment Dyer, 31, a seven-year officer, is helping arrest a suspect on a warrant at a Culver's drive-thru. Another he's shining a spotlight on a pitch-black alley, looking for a reported Peeping Tom.
But sometimes there's quiet, still moments, like sitting for a while behind a motorist with a suspended license, waiting for another licensed driver to come take him home.
"It's not all glam," he says with a laugh.
The 16th installment of "Riding Shotgun with NWI Cops" gives a glimpse into the New Carlisle native's patrol work in the heart of LaPorte County.
To view a video of the ride-along with Dyer cruising through LaPorte, visit nwi.com.
Q: What’s the earliest age you can remember wanting to get into law enforcement, and what drew you to the field?
A: In high school (New Prairie) we had to do an exit project senior year. So it was kind of soul searching, trying to figure out what you want to do. I narrowed it down between law enforcement and something construction-related. (I) did building trade senior year in high school and figured that was not going to be the case. Part of that project we had to do a practical portion. I did a ride-along with a corporal on the LaPorte Police Department, and we had to do so many hours a week, and then we asked them questions and presented on that. I went to IUSB (Indiana University South Bend) after high school for criminal justice, got a bachelor's degree and applied here.
Q: What different roles have you had?
A: I'm a field training officer. It's fun, it gets tiresome after a while but it's very rewarding and part of the reason I like it is it forces me to keep better track of things whether it's IC (identity) codes or geography, knowing the roads, because I'm teaching it to someone else so I have to know it better. I did the DARE program. I was a DARE officer the year before last year. With COVID and everything going on it's more difficult now. I got a lot of interaction with the kids through that. They were pretty receptive to it. I see a lot of kids out on the streets that remember me from that. It kind of leaves that lasting impression on certain kids.
Q: What do you like about working in LaPorte?
A: It is kind of an interesting place. We're nestled in between South Bend and Michigan City. Chicago's not too far. So we get a lot of different things from those areas. I like the size of it. A big enough town that we still get a pretty high call volume and there's always something. I would say the town's overall supportive. Whatever business or anything, people just coming up and saying 'thank you' for doing this job.
Q: What do the majority of crimes in LaPorte involve?
A: I would say that the majority of the crimes we have are some way or another revolving around drugs. So we get a lot of the smaller crimes that are in relation to that. They just started doing the Street Crimes Unit, which that's their whole focus. They're not working areas or taking calls. Their focus is trying to combat the drug issue by eventually finding the dealers and making an arrest with that. Unfortunately it's always kind of a revolving door. Let's say there's one specific house we're having issues with — you take care of that one problem, unfortunately another problem arises so it's a never-ending job. There's going to be something else. There's times where it's down and it's better and goes back up and you have to focus on a specific area again.
Q: What is your favorite part about police work?
A: I enjoy doing warrant services, looking for people with warrants, finding them. I like doing that aspect of it: trying to figure out where they might be going or where they're at and it's fun. We've had a lot of opportunities where we've had people in bad situations, whether it's they needed diapers for their kids, people that didn't have a place to stay and we're able to make arrangements for them to have somewhere to go, whether it's cold outside or they just don't have somewhere else to go.
Q: What are some things you feel the public should know about law enforcement?
A: I would probably say one with the job there's always the ability to make a difference with something. Different situations can be handled differently by different officers, but it could be something you can say or do that can make an impact on someone's day or someone's life that can leave a lasting impression. We're just people too. Sometimes we have people who use us as a scare tactic for kids, which I think kind of gives the negative idea of police. Instead of giving the idea that we're there to help them now they're just scared of us. That's not really the image we're trying to portray. It's not all traffic pursuits. If you have a traffic pursuit, then you got to go back and type for two hours, so it's (paperwork) the less appealing part of the job. It's not like the movies or CSI that people see on TV. There's more to it in real life.
Q: How has being a police officer changed your life?
A: The job definitely changes your outlook on everything. Some of it's rubbed off on my wife. Just what you're paying attention to when you're out in public, with your family, out to eat at a restaurant. Watching what people are doing. You notice more stuff and are more aware of what's going on. Paying attention to your surroundings.
Q: Tell me about your family.
A: I have a wife and two children. I have a five-year-old boy and a three-year-old girl. Oh they love it, they think it's really cool. They still love seeing police and cars and the lights and sirens even though they see it every day. Every day in the driveway you just turn the lights on for my daughter. She gets the same amount of excitement out of it every day. We asked both what they want to be when they grow up and my daughter said "catch bad guys like daddy."
Q: What is a moment that you were personally touched by something that happened or an interaction you had while working as an officer?
A: We have a skate park on the north side of town. I used to skateboard when I was much, much younger and I hadn't been on a skateboard in a long time. I was going through there and some kids were out there and for whatever reason someone asked if I could skateboard. I gave it a shot and I was out there for a while trying to do a kick flip and finally landed it. They thought that was just the coolest thing that a cop could do it. That goes back to the human side of it: we're just people too.
WATCH NOW: Riding Shotgun with NWI Cops series
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