Career Path of Darin Van Ryswyk, Deputy Chief of Police (ISU Police)
By Karena Bjerke (Career Coach at Career Exploration Services)
Deputy Chief of Police, Darin Van Ryswyk is the Field Services Commander here at Iowa State. He is a member of the SWAT team in Ames, and has worked for the ISUPD for about 21 years. His job includes running the patrol and dispatch operations, event planning, and supervising lieutenants.
I recently had the chance to meet with Van Ryswyk and he shared the story of how he got to where he is now – in a job he loves that challenges him and gives him room to grow and advance his career. He shared about his struggles to find the right major, to graduate, to balance his family with his career, and his hopes for his career path in the future.
When Van Ryswyk was trying to decide what to go to school for, he took an aptitude assessment (available at CES!) to help guide his decision. He is very good at math and science, and his results said he should be a chemical engineer; however, he realized he only liked the chemistry part – not the engineering aspect – so he started his undergraduate degree at Iowa State as a chemistry major. He felt pressure from his parents to choose a more prestigious degree, which is why he originally chose to pursue a degree in the science related field, rather than finding what he felt a passion for.
While at Iowa State, Van Ryswyk was on the ISU Rifle Shooting and Pistol team, with a friend of his from high school who had become a police deputy. When his friend told him about being a Deputy Sheriff, Van Ryswyk was fascinated by his stories. He felt an excitement towards the law enforcement career path that his current major did not instill in him.
This was around the time of the 1992 VEISHEA riots. The riots from that year were destructive and unsafe to the point where the typical amount of security was nowhere near enough to keep Ames safe. For this reason, the concept of peer security was implemented to keep VEISHEA safe in following years. Van Ryswyk acted as peer security for multiple years, and enjoyed it, going on to coordinate the security guards in later years.
During the time he was working as a peer security guard, he was still a chemistry major. He realized he did not have any interest in the typical occupations that a chemistry major would have, and decided to become a police officer because of his experience in peer security for VEISHEA, as well as his job as a security guard for SEARS. He has always been a problem solver, and knew his skills would be best suited for Law Enforcement.
When he was only 2 classes and 1 lab away from having his bachelors in chemistry, he switched his major to Liberal Studies, with a minor in Criminal Justice, as well as another minor in Chemistry. Switching a major-especially when being so close to a degree-would be stressful for anyone, but with the passion for his new career path and the support from friends and family, Van Ryswyk has no regrets on this decision.
Around this time, he got married to his wife and had kids. His personal life and job doing security for SEARS caused him to be busy enough that he needed to take a semester off, he then went back to school, only to take another semester off.
All in all, it took him six years (with 3 semesters off) to finish his degree.
It wasn’t his plan to take time off from school, but when his life changed and he needed to make time to take care of his family, he was able to take semesters off to do that and was still able to go back to school and finish his degree.
After graduation Van Ryswyk looked for a job that would fit his interests and skills. One of his friends on the Rifle Shooting and Pistol team was a member of the SWAT Emergency Response team and asked Van Ryswyk if he wanted to be a member. He likes solving problems and does well under pressure, so the SWAT team was the perfect place for him. It took about 3 years to be approved to join the team. The process included fitness testing, psychological evaluations, interviews, and shooting tests. Being on the team has given him lots of experience and training that he otherwise would not have gotten.
While working to join the SWAT team, he got hired to work as a police officer for Iowa State. He loved working for law enforcement and helping the community where he recently graduated from. However; despite the things he liked about the job he was working 60-65 hours a week, working nights, weekends, holidays, anniversaries, and missing out on a lot of the time his children spent growing up. He realized he did not get paid for working harder, but rather for working more hours, and decided to go back to school to get his master’s degree in Information Systems so he could move into a role that would be a better fit.
While working on his master’s, the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center (9/11) occurred which changed law enforcement forever. National security drastically increased and many new law enforcement jobs were available, but they weren’t in the area of Information Systems. This meant that in order to move away from his current job with long hours Van Ryswyk needed to be open to other opportunities to advance his career. Although he was not planning on it, when an opportunity came along to be promoted to Sargent, it made it possible for him to get more of what he wanted out of his job – more responsibility, and more of a say in how things get done.
In 2011, he got promoted to Captain (later reclassified to Deputy Chief), which is what he is currently doing now. In the future, he plans on going back to school for a doctorate degree once his kids are all in college and he has more free time.
As Deputy Chief some of his job duties include reviewing policies, writing annual reports, overseeing lieutenants, dealing with community complaints, event planning, managing training programs, and overseeing city issues with the Ames Police.
Of course, the job can be difficult. He faces unrealistic expectations set by the media and popular cop shows and anger from members of the community or parents who blame the officers for enforcing the law. He sometimes finds it hard not to take these attacks personally, but as a police officer, he has to be able to listen to the complaints without letting it stop him from doing his job.
He loves his job in law enforcement because there is lots of room for growth and different types of jobs that best suit different types of people. He could not imagine doing anything else today and knows that Iowa State was a great place to start his journey.
Van Ryswyk has three big pieces of advice for those still looking for a major or career:
-Use your resources
-Go to career fairs
Van Ryswyk wants students to know that school is only one aspect of college and it is important to do things that mean something to you with the rest of your time. He recommends joining clubs or sports that interest you, and interning somewhere that might be a possible future career opportunity (he recommends getting an internship during your sophomore year).
He also suggests using the helpful resources available at ISU. He suggests taking assessments to see possible majors/careers that would be a good fit for you. (The kind of assessments that are available at Career Exploration Services). He also suggests meeting with your advisor as much as you need to help determine the best educational path for yourself and to prepare yourself for career fairs.
And he encourages students to go to career fairs. He says if you are interested in a major that is not through your current college, you can go to a career fair associated with a different college and see things from their perspective.
He also wants students to know that employers don’t expect you to know everything upon graduation. You will learn on the job and be taught many things after you are hired. He went through a 12 week police academy training after graduation, and continuously attends trainings, classes, schools, etc. to better his skills.