Being in law enforcement is a childhood dream come true for Sgt. Keith Flores of the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office.
Flores, who will be celebrating his 12th year with the WCSO in August, recently transferred to Dexter after covering Ypsilanti and Scio Township for more than a decade.
"Dexter is a great community, and I'm eager to be a part of it," he said. "Just look at how everyone pulled together to help out after the in March. The caliber of people in this community is simply amazing."
Flores took over command of the WCSO substation from Sgt. Beth Gieske in May, bringing his urban policing skills to the rural outlying communities of Dexter Village, Dexter Township and Webster Township.
"There's a totally different set of challenges in the western part of the county than in the eastern part, which is a good thing," Flores said.
One challenge is working with local leaders to ensure adequate police protection for residents.
"In Ypsilanti, I was one of four sergeants and a lieutenant working together on the same goal in one station. Out in Dexter, even though I work primarily mornings and afternoons, I can't hand off the baton to the next sergeant. It's still up to me to know what's going on," he said.
There are eight deputies and one school officer that covers Dexter and the surrounding townships.
As far as crime, Flores admits burglaries, homicides, and assaults are less common, however they still exist, he said.
"When the bigger crimes do occur in the rural parts of the county, they can be a lot more complex because the municipalities are so spread out," he said. "We have a lot more time, however, to conduct thorough investigations out here.
"Last week our deputies just happened to be at the right place at the right time to stop a suspect from stealing air conditioning units from a business on Jackson Avenue."
That "thrill of catching the bad guy" has always been a driving force for Flores, he said.
"What little boy doesn't want to be a police officer or firefighter?" he said. "It's always been a dream of mine to help people who are in trouble."
The opportunity came knocking a few years ago when Flores, then a human resources manager, was laid off at his previous job.
"I was at a crossroads. Do I get another job in the same field? Do I go back to college? It was my open door to pursue my dream, and I'm glad I did. I love this job," he said.
Flores admits that the job isn't always an easy one.
"Any time you have to deal with crimes against children or when children are victimized it's hard, especially for those officers who have children. It hits really close to home," he said.
Despite the long hours, working on holidays, and dealing with criminals on a daily basis, Flores said there are perks to wearing the badge as well.
"Seeing justice from start to finish has an impact," he said. "You also have the opportunity to make a difference in someone else's life. When people are in trouble, who do they call?"
One story in particular stands out for him, when Flores was called to assist in the rescue of a drowning victim in the Huron River.
"We saved his life," he said.
That's why this year's Memorial Day parade had such an impact on Dexter's newest member.
"When people stood up and clapped for us in the parade, that was pretty cool. I didn't expect it, nor did I want it. Memorial Day is for the veterans, but to see people's gratitude for the sheriff's office was very humbling."
Flores can be reached at the Dexter substation at 734-426-4500.