The Southeast Precinct of the Omaha Police Department (OPD) has a very fertile community garden where one can see a blue badge with the name of Police Officer Don Hill, and the phrase “for his dedication to the community.”
Those who visit the offices close to 24th and Vinton Streets will surely run into Hill, and who retired from active duty a few years ago but who is still working for the wellbeing of families in the area.
Hill is a simple man who grew up in North Omaha, joining the agency back in 1968 believing it was the best way to provide for his family and to serve others: “It took me a couple of years since I had to apply twice, but I made it.”
Not many know that, along with patrolling the streets, Officer Hill also had many responsibilities as a farmer since for a long time he owned many animals, mostly cows for milking, as well as a lot where he used to plant corn and oatmeal. Hill, used to working hard, always considered that on the countryside or in the city what mattered was “taking care of all tasks” in the best possible way.
Although during the start of his career Hill did not work closely with the Southeast Precinct, “because back then officers who had grown in South Omaha were the ones who worked at that precinct,” he now considers it his second home. “I think nowadays people are more willing to talk with us because they know we are here to help them,” said Hill, who despite living outside of the city is always at his spot on time and ready to personally help people, fielding calls and assisting all staff on duty.
As if this wasn’t enough for him to be busy, Hill also takes some time to help Crime Prevention Specialist Ofelia Robles with the community programs offered for free during the year. This is why Robles and the rest of the staff decided to work on a tribute to Hill, led by Captain Katherine Belcastro-Gonzalez.
“It really surprised me!” said Hill, adding how while he was busy taking care of work, many officers who are usually out of duty arrived at the location, offering “weird excuses” to justify their presence. Everyone, including his family, was part of the celebrations on July 28 which ended with a luncheon with members of the “Yo soy Salud y Vida” group who since 2015 have been taking care of the garden that bears his name: “We didn’t have a good harvest last year, but I built a fence around the garden to keep rabbits away, and we then did better.”
Projects such as this one that benefits the entire community have what could be called the “Hill special touch,” showing all the care he puts into everything he does, going back to that first time when he was hanging piñatas for the Christmas party, an event now known as Santa at the Southeast Precinct which has grown considerably from 600 participants to over 3,000 in 2015.
“I met him back in 1999 and ever since he’s been helping me with all programs. He’s my right-hand man,” emphasized Robles, adding that Hill, in good humor, put a sign on his desk that says he’s her “assistant.”
With his creativity and talent, Hill and many other volunteers, including police officers and civilians, have worked hard as a team alongside Robles for great events such as SAFE, Meet and Treat, Citizen Police Academy and the recently created Kids Omaha Police Academy (KOP).
On that note, Hill highlighted how kids programs such as KOP are very interesting to him because they encourage boys and girls to learn how to interact with police officers by learning more about the valuable tasks they perform for our society. “It is thanks to Ms. Robles that our message can reach the children,” said Hill, who is not only a grandfather but also a great-grandfather, so he is well aware of how “kids are like sponges that absorb everything,” and it is them who will turn into the adults who will spread a positive message about local authorities.
On October, Hill will turn 73, and he plans to continue working hard on his many tasks: “My kids support me 100%, so I’ll keep working hard!”
OPD Southeast Precinct
2475 Deer Park Blv.
Omaha, NE 68105
Office hours: Monday to Friday 9 a.m.-5 p.m.