After 30 years, Officer Friendly says goodbye
Now that he's retired, Ted Dau has the time to sit back and visit. To tell his stories. To reflect on his 30 years as a police officer.
He has time to realize the impact one person can have on an entire community.
Of course, Dau being the type of guy he is, will gladly share his stories, but he'll humbly shrug off the kudos. He was just doing his job, he'll tell you. And it was a job he loved to do.
Hired as a reserve officer while he was still in college at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, Dau joined the Farmington Police Department on April 8, 1980. In 30 years, he managed to tap into a resource that some would have never guessed would become a resource - children and teens.
Dau is responsible for building the Farmington School District's school resource officer program, but even more, he's responsible for touching - and maybe even changing - the lives of thousands of Farmington's kids.
Dau came to Farmington in 1967, at the ripe old age of 9. His father, a preacher, was called to serve at Trinity Lutheran Church. And so the Dau family arrived in Farmington.
His recollections of the city are like those of any "old timer" - there wasn't a swimming pool so he and his friends splashed in the Vermillion River. The town was smaller, and if someone didn't know you, chances were they knew your parents. Everyone looked out for each other. All of the police duties were handled by just a couple of officers, and there wasn't that much to handle.
After graduating from Farmington High School, Dau decided to pursue a double music major at UMD. He wanted to teach. To work with kids. Everything was going according to plan until his advisor laid out the facts: there simply weren't a lot of music teaching jobs out there.
He came home for the summer, to go back to his part-time job at a pizza joint in town. It was a place the cops frequented for lunch and dinner, so he'd gotten to know them pretty well. One night, they suggested maybe he should consider switching his major to law enforcement.
"They said, 'ever thought about being a cop?' And the fact was, I had," he said.
Then-chief Bob Metcalf hired Dau as a reserve officer, then later put him on part-time. As Dau went through his law enforcement classes, he was able to put his classroom smarts to practical use on the streets of Farmington. Not long after graduation, he was hired full time.
"It changed my life forever, in a really good way," he said.
There were only about 3,000 people in Farmington back in those days, so there weren't a lot of calls. For a while, it was not unusual for one officer to be patrolling Farmington at a time. He marvels now at the 25-plus team of officers who keep the city of Farmington safe. He's glad to see there are different specializations among those officers - a new canine unit, investigations, a full-time officer on the county's drug task force - but he remembers a time when all of the investigations were done by the same officers who were on patrol.
"I think it forced us to be better officers," he said. "All these different areas of investigation, we used to have to do by necessity."
Dau could go weeks without any calls. And when he wasn't on calls, he'd go looking for kids. Somewhere inside him, he had realized prevention could start with intervention. That by working with kids, he could give them positive reinforcement that would hopefully result in them staying out of trouble.
He recalled his Saturday morning ritual for several years. Providing he wasn't out on a call, he'd go up to the Hill Dee neighborhood, where Farmington's current mayor, Todd Larson, his brother and friends used to ride bikes. Dau would park his car at the base of a hill, then time the boys as they raced from the top of the hill to the bottom.
Dau wasn't long into his career when he started working in the school buildings. He went into the elementary school and taught things like bicycle safety, "good touch/bad touch" classes and so on. Kids started to call him Officer Friendly. He was a cop, and he was teaching. It was a good mix.
"That's when I knew something good was going to happen in the schools," he said.
Over time, his involvement in the schools increased. In 1990, the Drug and Alcohol Resistance Education program started in the district's two elementary schools. In 1996, the DARE program ended in District 192, but that's because something much bigger had occurred.
Dau had become a school liaison officer. Back in 1994, President Bill Clinton allocated federal funds to put police officers into school buildings through a program called Community Oriented Policing Services. Commonly known as the COPS Grant, that funding paid Dau's salary for 10 months of the year; the city of Farmington and school district split the difference.
"It was like all I could do was to prioritize. This is my 'to do' pile, this is my pile to wait. But that pile never went away," he said.
About five years ago, Steve Kuyper became the second SRO in Farmington schools. Now that Dau has retired, Kuyper is stationed at FHS, while SROs Jason Fox and Andrew VanDorn are in the middle schools.
Officer Friendly was recognized for his years of service during the May 3 Farmington City Council meeting. The police department had a party for him last Friday. The school district's party was Tuesday.
Dau and his family plan to move from Farmington at the end of the school year. They've purchased a Victorian home in another community, and are working on its renovations. He's been there quite a bit over the past few weeks, but came back for his good-byes.
Besides his family's move, Dau thinks maybe he'll try a little fishing. Taking things easy. And maybe opening a private investigations business someday.
"Retirement is bittersweet," Dau said. "You start thinking about all of these things you're going to miss.
"I feel very blessed to have things go the way they did."