Danny Croy was 20 years old when he was told he’d never be a cop.
It was 1988, and the young HVAC worker had said something smart to the policeman across the street in Lynchburg, following up by saying he figured just about anybody could be a lawman. The officer told Croy, who sported a mullet and an earring at the time, that he could never be a cop.
Croy did it anyway.
Now 51, the seasoned road sergeant is retiring from the Highland County Sheriff’s Office this month after 29 years of upholding law and order in Highland County as a peace officer.
In an interview with The Times-Gazette on Thursday, Croy said he’ll miss mentoring young officers on the force and having morning pow-wows with fellow deputies — but he won’t miss the stress.
Croy counts himself lucky to have both his health and his family intact, two things police officers lose all too often to the stresses of the job.
If it hadn’t been for his wife, Croy said he likely would have fallen apart and quit long ago.
“It takes a special kind of woman to be married to a cop,” he said.
After 10-hour shifts that blurred into 12 or 14, he would often come home tired and discouraged, but she was always there to remind him of what they both believed: that God put Danny Croy on this earth to be a cop.
For Croy, there was never much more to life than those three essential elements: having a relationship with the Lord, a good wife to stand beside him and a county full of people to keep in line.
“Knowing God, getting married and becoming a cop were the best three things that ever happened to me,” he said. “In that order.”
After a stint with the Lynchburg Police Department following his graduation from the police academy, Croy was approached by then-Sheriff Tom Horst about becoming a special deputy. He accepted the position, and after volunteering countless hours, he was hired as a corrections officer at the Highland County Jail in 1991. In 1994, he was promoted to road deputy, then to road supervisor in 1997.
In 1999, Croy left the sheriff’s office to become a probation officer, a job at which he excelled — he was named probation officer of the year by the governor in 2000 — but he never could shake his love for the road.
The same year he was recognized by the governor, he rejoined the sheriff’s office as a detective under then-Sheriff Ron Ward, who was expanding the office’s investigations unit.
Croy did 14 years in investigations “putting puzzles together,” but after Ward retired in 2014, he found himself needing a change of pace.
In late 2014, Croy returned to the road as senior road sergeant, and has stayed in that position ever since.
Croy, never one to mince words, said there are many days when the job just sucks. But, he said, if you play your cards right, it makes you a better person than you were when you started — he said he’s evidence of that. It pays off later, too, with a good pension, he added.
Croy said his only regret is that he never kept a diary. When asked to share a low point in his career, Croy shook his head for a moment and said he’s forgotten more than he remembers. Ward choosing to leave the sheriff’s office devastated him, Croy said, but he understands better now that he himself is taking that step.
Anyway, he said, the funny thing about a cop’s brain is that it’s stuffed with information and details — the smell of the suspect’s shirt, the smudge on the wall near the door, the license plate number of that one truck — but it’s hard to fish through it all and come up with something meaningful unless your memory gets jogged.
Croy said he’d like to sit down one day and go through it all, and maybe come out with a book. He said if he could write a memoir, it would paint a picture of “the good, the bad and the ugly” of Highland County.
In retirement, Croy plans on spending most of his time with his family — something he hasn’t had much time to do for the past few decades — and keeping a watchful eye on students at the Lynchburg-Clay Local School District as a security officer, a job he accepted last month.
Croy’s last day at the sheriff’s office is Oct. 1.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.