Former police chief turns memories into Benevolence fundraiser

by Marianne Gasaway

Clear Lake is no Mayberry, but for 20 years Clear Lake had a police chief with a strong resemblance to fictional Sheriff Andy Taylor— an easy going, small town guy who protects and serves his community.

Former Police Chief Dan Jackson has detailed the ups and downs of a small town cop in a new book titled, “On the Job in the Heartland.”  All proceeds from the book will go to the Clear Lake Benevolence Association.

Short stories within the book detail Jackson’s on the job experiences, ranging from the funny to the serious, and providing a glimpse back into local history.

“People encouraged me to write a book for years.  Finally, last summer I sat down and did it,” said Jackson, who retired almost 13 years ago.  “I wanted to do it without anyone knowing I was working on it.  I actually had a lot of fun with it.”

His finished product, an 80 page soft-cover book, is filled with stories ranging from serious to silly and calls attention to some of the pitfalls and rewards of working in a small-town department.

“Hippies in the Park” is just one of Jackson’s examples of interesting issues facing local law enforcement.

“In the early 1970s, the Vietnam War was coming to an end.  It was a rebellious era and Clear Lake had its share of low-key demonstrations,” recalled Jackson.  “Sometimes we had about 15 to 20 Hippies that would go to City Park and sit in a large circle with their German Shepherds or Dobermans.  This would drive the citizens crazy.  They would take a cigarette out and pass it around like it was a marijuana joint.  They would yell at people walking through the park or at cars driving by.  They basically used this to shock people and draw attention to themselves.”

The antics of the group drew the attention of the Des Moines Register, and when one Hippie was tied to a large wooden cross in City Park on Easter Sunday morning, “the gloves came off with no holding back,” Jackson writes.  In the days that followed, Hippies responded by marching down Main Street to the police station, with one even riding his motorcycle up the front steps of the station and into the lobby.

Bar fights and disturbances, sometimes with threats thrown in, were common place, according to Jackson, who began his tenure with the CLPD on the night shift in 1972.  He was promoted to chief in 1986 and retired in 2006.

“I remember that I used to go through a can of mace every couple off weeks… I was involved in many incidents and many times got my glasses broken and stitches in my eyebrows.”

Admittedly, some of Jackson’s injuries happened as a result of his own sometimes flawed decisions.  Making fun of one’s self was necessary, he says, and he surprisingly shares some of his more goofy, if not embarrassing, moments in the book.

During his first week on the job as chief, a story aired on the local television station introducing him to the area.  It was all great until the calls began coming in from those who noticed Jackson wasn’t wearing a seatbelt in the squad car he was driving in the piece.  The seat belt law was new at the time.  Jackson ultimately wrote himself a ticket for the offense and paid it.  That should have ended it, but the story went nationwide.

Jackson said the willingness and ability to think through a situation and take action was something he learned by example from some of his predecessors and he considered it high praise to occasionally be referred to as “dad.”  That name was used for previous chiefs whom officers felt helped them through some trying circumstances.

There is no Barney Fyfe, Otis the town drunk, Floyd the Barber, or Aunt Bea like in Mayberry, but there are several relationships Jackson said he was grateful to establish during his service in Clear Lake.   He points to the department’s cooperation with the carnival owners who come to Clear Lake for each Fourth of July celebration, business owners, town characters, members of the fire department, as well as his own officers.

“The stories and events I have written about are a very small part of my memories on the job,” writes Jackson.  “They bring back memories of good times and some bad times.  I loved being a police officer and I am very proud of my 36 years of service.”

“On the Job in the Heartland,” by Daniel Jackson, is available for purchase at the Clear Lake Police Department for a $7 donation.  Books can be mailed for a $10 donation. Jackson has donated the book to the Clear Lake Benevolence Association as a fundraiser.  All proceeds will go to the association, established as a benefit in the event of an officer’s death.  The association contributes to community events and school fundraisers

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