VINTON ó As the oldest son growing up in south central Iowa, Eric Dickinson was expected to follow in the familyís construction business, started by his grandfather. He wanted to become a cop instead.
"I knew my dad was OK with it one day," recalls Eric, 38, a 15-year member of the Vinton Police Department. "We were at a job site in Newton. He had to have a meeting with an official. When he introduced me, there was pride in his voice. ĎThis is my son, Eric. Heís going to school for law enforcement.í"
That didnít stop his parents from worrying about his well-being. Maybe thatís why Eric is so gung-ho about promoting officer safety, whether heís writing articles for national publications or applying his dozen years of experience as an Emergency Medical Technician to in-person training.
But Eric likes to remain low key, working behind the scenes. Thatís why he was apprehensive to sit down and chat.
"Itís a combination of being humble and not wanting some people out there to know more about me than they need to know about me."
But, he adds, "Iíve gotten emails from guys at LAPD and NYPD thanking me for what Iíve been able to give them. To think that a guy on an eight-man department in a town of 5,500 can do that makes you feel good."
Last summer, with help from Chief Jeff Tilson and the department, Eric coordinated an all-day statewide safety program that filled the 640-seat auditorium at the Vinton-Shellsburg High School. More than two-dozen of his articles have been published in the likes of Law Officer magazine and JEMS, for emergency management services personnel.
Ericís first article, in 2007, concerned self-applied medical aide for law officers. His latest centers around lessons learned from the killing of four California Highway Patrol officers by heavily-armed parolees.
One of Ericís more universal articles, republished in the book "American Blue" in 2011, shows that cops think about consequences, too. One morning, heíd given a woman a ticket for driving with only a tiny patch of frost cleared from her windshield. Her husband stopped in the office that afternoon. Anticipating the worst, Eric was taken aback when the man thanked him for his concern about his wifeís safety.
Itís all common sense, really. But everyone can use a reminder.
"Some of it is refresher," Eric says. "A lot of it is applying new issues, new equipment, new methodologies."
Writing became a passion while Eric was in junior high school. Even in college he could procrastinate, then earn an A or B on his papers.
"I never thought at that time Iíd be writing as much as I have," he says.
His current project is a medical tactics textbook for law enforcement."Itís a specialized audience," Eric says with a laugh. "I donít expect to see it on anybodyís coffee table."