After 45 years of public service, 22 of which were spent as police chief in , David Dial thought the time was right to hang up his gun and retire.
Dial, 67, has a little more time at the helm of the police department. His last day on the job will be May 18. That evening, he will attend the department’s award ceremony.
“I’m going to feel good. That night, I will preside over that ceremony and leave,” he said. “A great way to end my career.”
Dial, who grew up in Hayward, CA, was in college at San Jose State when he decided that law enforcement was the right career for him, he said.
The school offered a major in police science and he met with the head of the department to learn more. He knew he found his career path when he went out on a ride with his college roommate who worked as a police officer.
“Early on, I really wanted to be a police officer, it’s just something I wanted to do,” he said. “I am very fortunate that I have had a career I enjoyed.”
He majored in law enforcement and administration and Army ROTC was his minor. He started working in January 1967 as a police officer in Milipitas, CA, and in October of the same year, he started his military service.
He was a commissioned officer and for a year, he trained in military intelligence and studied the Vietnamese language. Then in 1968, he went to Vietnam.
His wife of 42 years, Mary Pat, began planning the couple’s wedding while Dial was serving overseas.
One event from his time in Vietnam Dial said he would never forget was when he was stationed at the 9th Infantry Division Headquarters in Dong Tam in the Mekong Delta. The barracks were located a few miles from the ammunition dump, where all the ammunition was stored for the 9th Infantry. One night the mortars were flying and took the roof of the barracks where Dial was. Then a little while later as he was holed up in a bunker, dirt and shrapnel went flying. The ammunition dump had been hit and with it, all of the explosives.
Mail was the only way for news to get home, but the story had made the papers. Dial said his mother contacted Mary Pat worried that Dial might be hurt. But, Mary Pat said she knew he would be fine.
“I was happy to come home,” he said.
Moving up the ranks
After starting his career in Milipitas, Dial was recruited to work in Lakewood, CO. He moved there in 1974 and over the years moved up the ranks from a police agent to assistant chief of police. He left Lakewood in 1990 for the job as police chief in Naperville.
During his time as police chief, Naperville’s population has experienced significant growth. In 1990, the population was 85,000. Today, it is nearly 145,000. Along with that growth, the department grew, but the last few years of economic decline have forced the reorganization of the department, he said.
Over the years, Dial said his wife and children, David and Krista, have been very supportive of his career. Once he retires, he said he will remain in the area, near his grandchildren and friends.
“I love the community, we have great friends. My wife and kids have just been great (over the years). She’s tolerated a lot of crazy scheduling,” Dial said of his wife.
Once he retires, Dial said he might stay involved in law enforcement whether teaching or taking on a different role. He has seen a lot of changes over the course of the last 45 years.
Changing times, changing technology
During Dial's tenure in Naperville, the use of technology, DNA and intelligence has become standard practice. All of the officers on the force have computers in their cars and Dial can see exactly where they are at any time just by checking his computer.
Communication between law enforcement agencies has also increased significantly since Sept. 11. The department’s intelligence unit shares information with about 200 different law enforcement agencies every day, he said.
The use of intelligence to deploy officers is significant, he said.
“The arrest of the robbery suspects  didn’t just happen,” he said. “We were able to glean information and do surveillance that led to the arrest. The pace of technology and change has been more rapid.”
A few cases, solved and unsolved, have stuck with Dial over the years.
One case the department was able to solve that Dial won’t forget is that of a man from New York whose remains were found along Diehl Road in the 1990s. The man was eventually identified. He had picked up two hitchhikers who killed him and dumped his body. The men were caught and tried for the crime.
Another case left unsolved that Dial wishes was put to rest was that of a Hispanic man who died of a gunshot wound. The police were never able to identify him.
“I know somewhere there is a family missing someone,” he said. “If we can’t identify the victim, we can’t identify the murderers.”
One thing Dial is most proud of is the relationships the men and women on his department have built in the community, he said.
“We have a supportive relationship and have been able to keep a relatively low crime rate. More important than all of the technology, I have a group of competent, dedicated men and women who I am lucky to have.”
As he plans to step away from his role, Dial said he feels it’s a good time to bring in a new chief. The department is running well, crime is low and the budget is under control.
“It’s been a fulfilling job for me,” he said. “I always felt I had a career that made a difference in society and felt appreciated by society. … It’s been very fulfilling for me, and I’ve been able to live vicariously through the men and women on the department because they do a great job.”