Brad Parker

Sometimes, finding your way to your lifelong career takes a while, as Brad Parker learned many years ago.


Parker, who has been a police officer with the Yankton Police Department (YPD) for 20 years and a lifelong Yankton resident, always knew he wanted to serve in law enforcement.

“I’ve always been really service-driven,” he told the Press & Dakotan.

Upon graduating high school, however, he went into business and worked retail. He initially was able to exercise his serving spirit by owning ServiceMaster, a cleaning service, for 10 years before moving on to owning and operating Midwest Motor Sports for five years.

Eventually, he could no longer ignore the pull of his lifelong dream.“

At 38, I decided it was time to do whatever it is I wanted to do,” he said.

He completed his law enforcement training in 1997 and has been with the YPD ever since.

His favorite aspect of this job is, of course, being able to help people.“You wear a lot of different hats when you’re a police officer,” he said. “Not only are you an officer, there’s times you’re a counselor, a parent and so on. You have to be a good listener and deal with a lot of peoples’ problems and issues.

“I always say, ‘Service before self.’ You need to put the community ahead of you.”

On the day of Parker’s interview with the Press & Dakotan, the YPD had received several phone calls reporting thefts and domestic violence. Officers had also made some traffic stops, which is the most common activity for officers working the day shift as Parker does.

He also serves on the YPD’s SWAT team.

Facing Changes

In his two decades of service, Parker has seen how changes in the technological world have benefited police work.

“There are people on our staff that are technology experts because a lot of crimes are committed with technology,” he said.

The incorporation of dashcams in police vehicles has also proven to be a great tool.

“If it’s on videotape, you can’t lie about what happened,” Parker said, adding that the YPD may eventually receive body cameras for its officers.

Some more negative changes center on a seeming uptick in violence, with the YPD receiving more assault calls than before, Parker noted.

“Fortunately, our department is very aggressive in our training, like with tasers,” he said. “We used to carry pepper spray, but not anymore. Tasers are more effective than pepper spray.”

When shot with a taser, the body receives 50,000 electrical volts that cause it to lock up. Each of the officers, Parker included, had to experience the effect in order to know what it feels like.

“Our assaults on officers have gone down quite a bit since we’ve started carrying tasers,” he remarked.

Another unfortunate change has been an increase in fear and mistrust of police officers in the last several years. Though Parker has seen an increase of this attitude in Yankton, it isn’t as severe as he’s seen on the East and West coasts.

“There are instances where you might get spit on and called names, but that’s usually when someone’s going to jail,” he said. “Being attentive (to what’s going on) does bring your guard up when you’re doing your job.”

YPD officers have the benefit of Yankton being a small town and having support from the community, he added.

“We have about 30 sworn officers, (which) is kind of a brotherhood … in the police department,” he said. “We’re all here because we like doing what we’re doing, and that makes a difference. Not everybody can do what we do. You have to have that serving attitude and be able not to take (it) personally when someone flips you off or calls you names. It is what it is and you keep moving.”

Fortunately, he does receive some appreciation every now and again.

“At the time (of an incident), you may feel like you’re doing your job and not know you’re making a difference, but it hits home when you see an individual in public who will come over and say that I made an impact in their life, or when we get a card of thanks for being there and taking care of a situation,” he said. “Those are the things that make a difference.”