For 25 of his more than 31 years as a Falls cop, Dave Bower patrolled the streets in what is still known as the “50 car.”
“I was assigned to the Highland Avenue car from the start,” Bower said. “And I started to build a relationship with the good people in that community.”
Then he added with a chuckle, “And the bad one.”
But as he left Falls Police Headquarters on Tuesday morning to begin his retirement, Bower said he was happy with his time in a sometimes troubled part of the North End.
“I earned respect,” Bower said. “You treat people the way you want to be treated.”
Bower enjoyed his time in the community to the point where he began working off-duty, providing security at Unity Park. He would roam the development for hours and when he no longer wanted to walk, he would pull out his bike and ride with the children who lived there.
The parents appreciated that. And they made sure Bower never missed a dinner.
“I loved doing my job,” he says. “And I never walked out of (Unity Park) hungry.”
Bower admits the job has had its downsides. Nobody likes to be arrested.
But he said he learned to be discreet in his dealings with people.
“If it was something minor, I wouldn’t make a fuss about it,” Bower said. “I have never arrested anyone for anything other than their actions.”
Bower said he was perfectly happy as a patrolman, but his job changed dramatically after a Gazette investigation into the Niagara SPCA. Gazette reports revealed that the local SPCA had become more of a killing field than a shelter.
The resulting community response swept the charity’s board. A new council was elected and Bower, a lifelong animal lover, was one of its members.
“I was reading about what was going on there and we had seen a lot of animal cruelty (on patrol),” Bower recalled. “So I thought I could get in there and help them restructure and build back better.”
Bower has joined a board that has made remarkable changes to the shelter, even adopting a No Kill policy for animals brought there.
“A lot of things have changed,” Bower said. “And I enjoyed it. It was a good outlet, getting in touch with the animals.
Changes at the SPCA also significantly changed the final years of Bower’s time with the Falls police.
As part of a review of Niagara SPCA operations, Erie County SPCA Executive Director Barbara Carr suggested the SPCA should stop doing animal control for municipalities like the falls.
“Because I had spent four or five years on the SPCA board, (then Falls Police Superintendent Bryan DalPorto) came to me and said you’d like to start investigating animal cruelty,” Bower said.
Bower went from “Car 50” to AC (Animal Cruelty) 1.
The city acquired a vehicle specially equipped for animal rescue and transport, and Bower went to school to learn the ins and outs of animal cruelty investigations. But while he found some good times patrolling the streets, there wasn’t much joy in his new role.
“It was brutal. It was heartbreaking,” Bower said of the dozens of cruelty investigations he has undertaken. “Some of them were so horrific it’s hard to talk about. “
But he said he also knew he had saved animal lives, and those were the moments that made the job change interesting.
Leaving police headquarters, Bower will leave behind a son, Daniel, and a nephew, Matthew, as NFPD patrolmen to carry on the family legacy. His daughter-in-law, Giona Kilmer, will also attend, working as a 911 dispatcher. Son Matthew will continue his public service duties with the Falls Department of Public Works.
An avid angler, Dave said he will be river fishing later this week as the weather warms up and will be out on his boat this summer dropping lines in Lake Ontario. He also bought a nice 30ft trailer to hit the road with his wife Ginny.
With a final radio transmission from “AC-1 10-7” (Off Duty Animal Cruelty Officer), Bower walked away to the sound of the piper.