Two years ago today, Don Dame rolled into his new job as a road deputy for the Callaway County Sheriff’s Office.
On St. Patrick’s Day, he will be promoted to road sergeant, responsible for managing the night shift.
“Anything’s possible,” he said of his expanding career.
It’s just the beginning for Dame, according to Sheriff Clay Chism.
“He will most likely become a field training officer,” he added.
Dame, 31, grew up in the eastern part of the county
“My whole family’s from here,” he said.
He graduated from North Callaway High School in 2004 and went straight into the workforce. Like his father before him, Dame worked in a factory for awhile, but decided it wasn’t for him.
“I decided I wanted to do something more with my life,” he added.
At 22, he joined the Missouri National Guard and served as a military police officer with the rank of specialist. He served six years, and remembered being deployed to Haiti, an island nation often subjected to natural disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes.
“It gives you a whole new perspective,” Dame said. “They have legitimate tin villages, no running water. It was a culture shock.”
He remembers finding people killed in the rubble and just how difficult that was.
“When you’re young, it’s a lot to take in,” he said.
Dame eventually took a job as a police officer with the tiny city of New Franklin, and a year later, became a deputy for the Howard County Sheriff’s Office, northwest of Columbia.
“I was new to law enforcement and I was just trying to get my feet wet,” Dame said.
He missed his family, including his now three-year-old son, and they missed him, too. His father began campaigning for him to come work for the Callaway County Sheriff’s Office.
“My dad showed me an ad in the paper,” Dame said. “I thought it was a sign.”
He’s the first person in his family to work in law enforcement, he added.
“Both my parents were just hard-working people,” Dame said. “I know it’s cliche to say I like helping people, but I feel like I’m a good problem solver. I enjoy the community and it’s nice to serve (your hometown). It means a lot to me.”
His son is old enough to be proud of his deputy dad, too.
“He kind of understands it a little bit,” he added. “He brings it up all the time.”
The midnight hour
When it’s dark outside, that’s when Dame hits the Callaway County highways in his patrol car. His work truly keeps him up at night.
“I usually work the midnight shift; I’m kind of a night owl,” he said.
It’s hard to say what he likes most about his job — Dame said he likes just about everything.
“I get a lot of satisfaction,” he added. “You get what you put into it.”
One night, he might pull a drunk driver off the road. Another night, he might talk someone off a mental cliff. He might solve a burglary.
“When you’re working a case, it’s nice to see the outcome,” he said.
Every shift is a new adventure, Dame added.
“It can be a dangerous shift; there’s always that unknown,” he said. “You see a variety of calls and you never know what kind of case you’ll be working on that day.”
Dame said he’s not a huge fan of monotony.
“With all due respect to factory workers, now I get up every day and I’m actually excited to go to work,” he said. “I can’t see myself doing anything different.”
When fully staffed, Callaway has 15 road deputies, according to Chism. The day and evening shifts generally have three or four on patrol, and the night shift will have two or three on patrol
“The county is 842 square miles,” Chism added.
The job description and application for road deputies can be found on the county’s website:callawaycounty.org/jobs/. The starting salary is $31,000 plus benefits. Applicants must be a minimum of 21 years old, have a high school diploma or GED, pass a drug screen and be POST certified.
Even those in the field must obtain continuing education, Chism said.
“The Missouri Sheriff’s Association requires 24 hours of continual education yearly for every commissioned police officer,” he said.
Officers can get that training in person or online.
“There are always opportunities out there,” Dame said. “You have to be motivated and go after it.”
When choosing his career, Dame said money wasn’t the main concern.
“I didn’t get into the job for the money,” he added. “It was more about serving the community I grew up in . Motivation’s important. A lot of people want to do good for people.”
He remembered pulling a woman off the road who was contemplating suicide and talking to her about 20 minutes.
“I guess she was having some issues and overdosed on some medication,” he said. “She said, ‘Thank God you stopped me.’ We ended up Life Flighting her (to the hospital) and she made it.”
Dame would tell road deputy recruits to stay positive.
“You’ll run across people who aren’t your friends and some people that will appreciate the help you give them,” he said. “And patience. If you’re not a patient person, the job will get to you.”
Dame said the older he gets, the more patient he is becoming. Family support also is extremely helpful.
“It takes a strong family, too, to support you,” he said. “We work long hours. But family’s very important here (at the sheriff’s office) and Clay is a big supporter of family, too.”