POCATELLO — After stepping into his Idaho State Police uniform and adjusting the brim of his trooper hat, District 5 Capt. Eric Dayley went out to work every day for 35 years with one goal in mind, “What good can I do today.”
Born and raised in Pocatello, Dayley, at age 58, has announced an end to his watch over the citizens he’s always known, and is set to retire from the state police on Oct. 17.
“I feel very blessed to have worked for the Idaho State Police and the citizens of Idaho,” Dayley said. “I think that I have had a great career with even better mentors. These last few years of being a captain were orderly because of the men who preceded me — that, and the staff underneath me have made my job incredibly easy.”
To celebrate Dayley’s career, the public is encouraged to attend a change of command ceremony and retirement open house scheduled for Oct. 17 at 1:30 p.m. at the District 5 Headquarters Building at 5255 S. 5th Ave. in Pocatello. The current state police District 3 Captain Fritz Zweigart will assume command of District 5.
After a few months as an Idaho State University Public Safety officer, Dayley joined the state police ranks in January 1984. A career path he describes as very well-paced, Dayley spent a decade patrolling Southeast Idaho highways and interstates as a trooper and a decade plus one year as the patrol and investigations captain of District 5. Sandwiched between his entry and exit positions are six years as a sergeant and another eight as a lieutenant.
“I certainly didn’t rocket up through the ranks, but I thought it was a good pace,” Dayley said. “I never got any promotion the first time around, and actually, I was a second-round hire by the state police.”
With the underlying principle to make the community in which he lives and works a better place by providing a sense of safety and security, Dayley said encountering people in some of their worst moments were also times he felt the largest sense of fulfillment.
“A career in law enforcement allows you to do some good, to make society safer and to help people,” Dayley said. “Sometimes they don’t appreciate the help we are giving them, but if you take a drunk driver off the street or find a lost child you are helping society.”
Dayley still remembers an occasion where he found a lost child crying as she walked alongside Interstate 15 near the location of Century High School before the school was built. The 7-year-old girl, Dayley learned, was apparently running away from home because her parents were mad at her. When he inquired further, the small child said it was because she had contracted head lice from school.
“I put in her in my patrol car and tracked her parents down, who were panic stricken,” Dayley said. “They showed her all the love when she got home and of course were not as mad as the little girl may have believed. It was rewarding to be in the right place at the right time.”
The most difficult aspect of his career in law enforcement has been witnessing human tragedy, said Dayley, adding the sudden and abrupt loss of a life is tough to process no matter whether it’s an adult or a child.
Such experiences take a toll on the officers who respond to them, Dayley said. One achievement Dayley tips the brim of his trooper hat to is the creation of a wellness smartphone app for troopers that connects them with help or services they may desire.
“If troopers are facing difficult challenges in their life they can access this app right from their own phone,” Dayley said. “They can do self-assessments and find out if they are experiencing anxiety or depression and it will provide peer-support and other resources for them when they face those challenges.”
Though he witnessed several tragic situations over a career spanning over three decades, Dayley feels grateful to have never been shot at, nor to have had to discharge his own firearm outside of training.
“I was battered a few times and got a few scrapes and bruises, but really I have had a blessed career, he said.”
Dayley plans to decompress a bit after retiring from the state police, he said, but would like to find another job outside of law enforcement. While he is thankful for the career he has had, 35 years as a state trooper takes a toll on the body, he said, adding, “The spirit may be willing, but the body may not be.”
But before he hangs up his flat-brimmed state police trooper hat, Dayley wants any current or future member of the state police to know they may have a tough job, but it’s worth it.
“Sometimes I think that a career in law enforcement can feel isolating, and I would encourage troopers to not feel that way,” Dayley said. “Remember you are part of the public and to involve yourself in the community. There is more good in this world than there is bad and be sure to recognize that.”