After more than a quarter century of patrolling the streets of Carmel, Officer David Vanderbeck is ready for a slower pace of life.
Vanderbeck, 49, will retire July 23 after more than 25 years with the Carmel Police Dept. He and his wife, Kathy, are planning to move to Florida’s Gulf Coast this summer, where Kathy will continue working as a speech language pathologist. Vanderbeck, a father of two adult daughters, doesn’t know what his next career move will be, but it won’t be in law enforcement, he said.
The Carmel resident is the longest-serving patrol officer in CPD history. He joined the department in 1996 after a brief stint at the Terre Haute Police Dept.
“I’m proud I did all of my job on the streets,” said Vanderbeck, who has served on CPD’s SWAT team since 1999.
Vanderbeck has had many memorable experiences on patrol, but the most unforgettable occurred early in his career. In 1998, he was part of a team that responded to a bank robbery in Carmel committed by members of a Los Angeles gang who shot at officers before leading them on a vehicle pursuit.
“We were going eastbound on 465 in the westbound lanes into oncoming traffic in the middle of noon rush hour traffic,” Vanderbeck said.
The chase ended in Indianapolis near 75th Street and Shadeland Avenue, where two of the suspects fled to a nearby apartment complex and took a hostage. After a brief standoff, they surrendered to police.
Another day he’ll never forget — like most others — is Sept. 11, 2001. Late that evening while working a vehicle accident on 146th Street, he saw a jet flying overhead — hours after all planes had been grounded nationwide. Then he began hearing reports of mysterious explosion sounds at Main Street and Hazel Dell Parkway, and soon he heard them, too.
Later, he learned he had witnessed President George W. Bush being flown back to Washington, D.C., and that the explosion sounds were sonic booms from escorting fighter jets.
‘Burying my buddies’
Vanderbeck has made a lasting impact among officers as well. He was instrumental in launching CPD’s Critical Incident Stress Management Team, now known as the Police Officer Support Team, which provides wellness and mental health support for officers dealing with the aftermath of responding to a disturbing or dangerous situation.
For 20 years, he was a member of the Indiana Fraternal Order of Police Critical Incident Memorial Team, a group tasked with providing support for police officers and departments across the state after an officer is killed in the line of duty. Vanderbeck said he’s attended and assisted with logistics for more than 100 funerals for police officers, which took its toll. He stepped down from the team in 2018 after helping coordinate the funeral of a good friend, THPD Officer Robert Pitts.
“Mentally, I ended up having to step down, because it got to be too much,” Vanderbeck said. “I had six of my friends murdered in the line of duty, and I was in charge of burying my buddies.”
Although Vanderbeck said he’s eager to leave behind many of the pressures of the job, it will be harder to say goodbye to the camaraderie he’s built with his fellow officers.
“(I will miss) the guys, brothers and sisters, coming in and not knowing what’s going to happen that day, razzing on each other, making fun of one another and having a good time,” he said. “And making sure we all go home.”
CPD Chief Jim Barlow described Vanderbeck as “a very passionate officer who served the citizens of Carmel with distinction.”
“His work with the survivors of line of duty death victims had a long-lasting impact on hundreds of lives, and he represented the City of Carmel admirably throughout the state of Indiana,” Barlow said. “We wish him well in his retirement.”