‘Home town boy’ ends beat with VPD

'Home town boy' ends beat with VPD Lt. Detective Ray Hofman has enjoyed the benefits of computers and other modern technology in the last years of his career with the Vermillion Police Department. He's holding a photo that shows him during his rookie year here, banging out a report on an old manual typewriter. by David Lias Lt. Detective Ray Hofman had by no means cleaned out his desk earlier this week.

He was in the process Tuesday of slowly gathering items that have defined his 25-year career with the Vermillion Police Department, and placing them in a cardboard box on his office floor.

By Friday, those items had been removed from his office, located in the Public Safety Center attached to the Clay County Courthouse.

Hofman, 48, who has seen the best and the worst of Vermillion during his lifetime, has decided he has devoted enough of his life to the police department.

The self-described home town boy's last day on the job is today (Friday).

Tuesday, he was reminded of just how far he and his co-workers in law enforcement have come in more than two decades.

While cleaning his desk, he uncovered an old black and white photo of himself during his rookie year in the police department, typing an accident report on an old manual typewriter.

Hofman viewed the photo with the large screen of a modern computer glowing on his desk.

"Today, it's a completely different world, with the technology we have," he said. "It's quite a contrast."

Hofman and his family moved to Vermillion when he was 8 years old. He attended Vermillion's elementary, junior high and high schools, and

entered the U.S. Army after graduation.

His first experiences in law enforcement were had while he was in the military, where he served two years as an MP.

After his discharge from the military, he returned to Vermillion, and was hired in August 1976 by Vermillion Police Chief Merle Offerdahl.

"What has amazed me is how different crimes today are much more popular than other crimes," he said. "Years ago, we would see a lot of burglaries, such as business burglaries, with stores being broken into, or bars being broken into.

"But today," Hofman added, "it seems like there is a great deal of fraud, forgeries, or some type of phony paper being exchanged for real money."

The changes in crime trends means the improvements in technology over the past 25 years have been a godsend.

"Boy, when we started (the technology) was pretty basic stuff," he said.

Today, police officers can print out crisp police reports minus the whited-out typing errors.

"And the means of finding people are much better today," Hofman said. "Following up, for example, with blood analysis and DNA makes it easier to catch the bad guys than years ago."

Hofman worked as a patrol officer in Vermillion from 1976 to 1988, when he was promoted to investigations.

He's departing from the police department today with no great worries about the future.

"I'm going to have some time off, and hopefully something will come along," Hofman said. "I guess I'm not really too concerned. I really don't have any plans. Maybe I'll do a little traveling.

"But 25 years of this job is long enough," he added. "This job is hard on a person � the stuff that you see, the stuff that you investigate � it's tough, and it seems like the older you get, the harder it is. It never gets any easier."

Earlier in his career, when he was a bit younger and more energetic, he looked forward to going to work each day.

"When you first start, it's really exciting," Hofman said. "You do a lot of different things, but after you've done it for 25 years, that's long enough."

He knows his life won't become empty after he leaves the police force today. He has been greatly fulfilled over the years by being highly involved with the youth group at St. Agnes Catholic Church.

"When you're working with the youth group, you're doing fun stuff," Hofman said. "And I plan to stay active in other service organizations. That will remain high on my list."

A plaque just taken down from his office wall and placed in that box on the floor was given to him in January 2000 when the Vermillion Sertoma Club presented him with its Service to Mankind Award.

Hofman said he feels especially fortunate to have been able to live and work for nearly three decades in his home town.

"It certainly helps in law enforcement to know your community and to know the people who you are working for," he said. "I've worked as much for the community of Vermillion as I have for the police department."

Shawn Fick will replace Hofman as an investigator with the department.

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