For more than 40 years, Jeff Danker has worked to protect people. For the last 28 years, he has done much as the sheriff of Pottawattamie County.
In case you have never had the privilege to meet or work with Danker in person, allow us to tell you a little about why he has been such an asset to the county:
He joined the department in 1977 following his graduation from the University of Nebraska in Omaha, where he earned a degree in criminal justice. He initially worked in the jail for a year and a half before serving as a court bailiff for six months. That was followed by a three-and-a-half year stint as a road patrol deputy and a one-year assignment working with a federal task force in Omaha.
Danker was then assigned to investigations and was promoted to sergeant in charge of investigations in 1988. He first ran for sheriff in 1992 when then-Sheriff Mike Kerns decided not to run. Danker was elected and took office in January 1993.
During that time, he and his staff have worked diligently to make sure the county stayed current with the technological times. This includes applying for grants for new equipment and making sure his staff had the necessary, up-to-date training it needed to provide the best services to the community. In 2007, he and his department assumed command of the 9-1-1 Communications Center and oversaw the implementation of the countywide 800-megahertz public safety communications project.
He oversaw the construction of the county’s current 288-bed jail on Big Lake Road. In addition, the number of people employed by the county to work for the Sheriff’s Office and Jail has grown from 60 in 1992 to more than 200 today.
In 2014, he oversaw the purchase and implementation of metal detectors and X-ray machines for the Pottawattamie County Courthouse — a needed step to ensure the safety of public and courthouse employees.
In 2016, he oversaw the purchase and implementation of 63 body cameras for deputies, a good investigative resource. And in 2018, a whole body digital screening system was purchased and installed at the Pottawattamie County Jail for the purpose of scanning all incoming inmates — an extra safety measure for those at the jail.
“We’re able to do things now that you simply couldn’t do when I started,” he said earlier this year. “Improvements in technology, in training and in equipment and communications allow the officers to do a better job for the public as well as be safer in doing their jobs.”
Danker has been a member of the National Sheriff’s Association and the Iowa Sheriff’s and Deputies Association, having been elected to serve the latter as president in 2005. He has been a member of the American Jail Association, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Metro Chiefs Association and the Council Bluffs Rifle and Pistol Club.
He genuinely cares about the people he serves. During his career, Danker made himself available to the people of Pottawattamie County. Beit to the press or the general public, he never shied away from the hard questions or situations. As the county’s top law enforcement officer, he treated the people with respect, and, in turn, earned the respect of many. In tragedies, his was a voice of needed calm and reason.
Danker has been an advocate of Project Childsafe, a program that puts free gunlocks into the hands of those who own firearms. In 2014, he said it’s imperative for gun owners with children to make sure their firearm is stowed safely, unloaded with a lock on and with bullets hidden elsewhere.
“With gun safety you hear stories all the time of kids that are able to get a hold of loaded firearms. Parents don’t think the kids know where the gun is at, or don’t know think the kid knows they have guns. But they find them and could shoot themselves or someone they’re with,” Danker told the Nonpareil at the time. “That’s a tragedy nobody wants to see happen.”
For several years, Danker and his team spend a cold morning in December helping local families through the office’s Shop with a Sheriff program, which was started during his tenure as sheriff. Every year, with the help of donations from various citizens, organizations and businesses, the department is able to help many local families have a better Christmas by providing food and gifts to those in need.
“The kids love the toys, but it’s also about providing the necessities they need. Some kids pick out things for their family, and it’s great,” Danker said during the 2017 event.
Danker was also the incident commander for Pottawattamie County during the flood of 2011.
He and his wife, Gladys, have been actively involved in community groups and their church, where he has served as deacon for many years.
After Danker announced that he would not seek re-election this year, effectively to retire, the county was presented with three very viable and very qualified candidates for the position. So much so, that we felt no matter which candidate would have won the primary and — ultimately — the election, the county sheriff’s office — and the county — would be in good hands. While we know Danker would more than likely never take credit for that, we feel that having a pool of such well-trained and respected deputies for voters to choose from is testimony of the good work Danker has done in his time in office. And though the COVID-19 pandemic has not allowed for the kind of public send-off he deserves, his modesty, honesty, good-nature and professionalism is something that many residents will long remember about him.
“It has been an honor to serve the citizens of Pottawattamie County for the last 43-plus years when this term is done,” he told the Nonpareil earlier this year. “I have been very blessed as sheriff to have outstanding and professional staff in all area of the Sheriff’s Office who have worked as a team to provide public safety to the citizens of Pottawattamie County.”