Tuesday, February 22, 2011

TOP STORY >> Lt. Dan looks back on 30 years

Leader staff writer

Lieutenant Dan is alive and well and in his 31st year as a Sherwood police officer.

“Ever since I made lieutenant in 2001,” Lt. Dan Kerr says, laughing, “I’ve been the butt of Lt. Dan jokes, especially when Forrest Gump gets him ice cream. I love it.”

Kerr was recently honored for 30 years on the local police force.

“Not too many make it 30 years,” said Chief Jim Bedwell.

Bidwell, who took over the department in January, is chief number six for Kerr.

The longtime veteran will re-tire at the end of this year. “It has been a good run,” he said.

But it’s been a slightly different kind of a send-off year than he expected.

The officer has spent most of his career patrolling the streets, seeing the sad, the horrible and the funny. He’s been involved in a number of scuffles, fights with suspects, and never got hurt.

“But on the first day of my last year, boom!” Kerr said. “I was off on the first, but back to work on the swing shift Sunday, Jan. 3. It was business as usual—nice and quiet, until 7:30,” he recalls.

“I was at headquarters when the call came in. A domestic disturbance on Autumnbrook Circle. The wife was scared and said her husband was intoxicated and had a gun,” he said.

Three units responded to the call, but Kerr was the closest. He went to the wife on the porch and she was okay. He asked where the husband was and she said, “Inside.”

“There he was right there in the living room waiting. He was about 275 pounds and very broad in the chest,” Kerr recalled. In fact, it would take two pairs of handcuffs to lock the suspect’s hands behind his back.

Kerr told the man that he had to check him for weapons. The suspect was belligerent and not very cooperative.

“But I had to make sure he had no weapons on him, so I started to reach behind him and he jumped on me and we went to the floor,” Kerr said.

Just as that happened an-other officer arrived and helped push the man off Kerr and his right hand, but it was too late, the hand was already broken.

“It was just one of those things,” Kerr said.

The officers didn’t really believe Kerr’s hand was broke and in fact Kerr didn’t either, but it was hurting, swelling and he couldn’t move a couple of the fingers, so he went to St. Vincent’s as the other officers took the suspect in.

“When the doctor called me in to show me the x-ray, he said, ‘Do you see that bone? It’s not supposed to look that like, you are probably going to need surgery and plates and pins.’”

Kerr had surgery on Jan. 14 and had two titanium screws placed in his right hand, which is his gun hand.

“I just started physical therapy last week,” he said. He is hoping to be off light duty and back on patrol by the end of March.

“The doctor wants to make sure the bones have healed and then I have to go to the range and be able to fire off 50 rounds and hit the target,” he said.

Kerr, who loves being a police officer, comes by it naturally. His father spent 25 years with the North Little Rock Police Department.

Kerr got his start in January 1978 with that department. “I took odd jobs after high school until I was old enough to become a police officer.

In 1979, Kerr joined the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office. “But then Tommy Robinson became sheriff,” Kerr said. “Rumor was he was going to fire as many of the former sheriff’s deputies as he could. Fifteen of us applied to the Sherwood department, and I think we were all hired.”

Kerr said he called one of his friends with the Sherwood Police Department and he told me they only had a spot or two left and paid $2,000 more than the county, and that was a lot back in 1980. I told him to hold me a spot.”

Kerr joined the Sherwood force Jan. 4, 1981, “and it’s just been great ever since.”

Shortly after joining the force he became a warrant officer working what he called great hours, noon to 9 p.m. and weekends usually off.

In 1985 he was ready to go back on patrol and asked the chief if he could make the switch. The chief thought something was wrong.

“No,” I told him, “I have a good run in warrant, but I want to get back to patrol before I forget how.”

The chief obliged and a week later Kerr was on patrol and working as a field-training officer.

In 1993 a new chief came in who liked to rotate his men every five years and moved Kerr into the detective division. In 1997 Kerr along with four other senior officers were the first to be part of the department’s community-policing program. “I really enjoyed that. It’s a lot of public relations.”

But by 1998 he made sergeant, meaning he had to move again—this time into the training division.

In 2001 he made lieutenant, and has been kidded and back on patrol every since.

“I worked mid-shifts for the first three years, and then evenings, the 2 to 10 shift. That was much more agreeable with my body,” he said.

Now, Kerr, who is married with eight grown children and 12 grandkids, is anxious to get out of the evidence room and enjoy the rest of his last year on patrol.

“After I retire, I figure the grandkids and fishing will keep me busy,” he said.