The names assigned to many badge numbers at Dublin Police Department have changed over the years, but two that remained the same were Dennis Lambert’s 471 and number 401 of Chief Jay Vest, who retired last fall.
Thursday night, Lambert’s 16 years of work and dedication to the town paid off as he was announced as Dublin’s new chief of police. Vest was in attendance for the announcement and said he can’t think of a better man for the job.
Lambert came to work for the town in 1997, following a brief stint with Virginia Beach Police Department and completion of the 24th session of Virginia Beach Police Academy. He has worked his way up through the ranks at Dublin, serving on patrol, the tactical team, as investigator, narcotics officer and school resource officer, and then entering supervisory positions.
“At the earliest age of remembrance, I wanted to be a police officer,” Lambert told family, friends, co-workers, council members, Mayor Benny Skeens and even a former teacher during an acceptance speech he jokingly promised would get everyone out of the meeting by 10 p.m.
A native of Spanishburg, W.Va., Lambert said his mother kept a book of his schoolwork and each year he stated his career goal was to be a police officer. Unfortunately, his dreams were dashed by height and weight requirements, so he entered other lines of work after graduating high school.
“But I was never satisfied,” he said. “Then many years later police officer restrictions were lifted; no longer could you discriminate against people because of their height and weight.”
He said he has always held the “sacred trust” placed in police officers “near and dear to my heart and have done nothing to bring shame or disgrace to the badge that I wear with great pride on my chest …” or discredit his family name.”
Lambert said growing up in the mountains of West Virginia presented him with “great family values and traditions” that taught him “to take up for those who can’t defend themselves and help your neighbor.
“A man is only as good as his word and my parents had something they liked to call ‘Old Hickory’ that had nothing to do with Andrew Jackson,” he added. “But it could be applied to the backside of your body when the wrong words, such as lies, came out from the front side of the body.”
Although many don’t hold duty, honor and loyalty in high regard these days, Lambert assured council he holds them “very high.” He continued, “I have always been true to Dublin and feel that I have paid my dues.”
Lambert thanked his wife, Heather, and daughters, Bethany and Cheyenne, for the support and understanding they have given him over the years as he has had to miss ballgames, musicals, parties and holidays, and even cut vacations short due to work.
After thanking Skeens, town council and others for their support over the years and trust in his abilities, Lambert said, “Rest assured that I will do my best to uphold all that (the job) entails.”
Lambert officially becomes chief May 1, but Skeens told him they were going to go ahead and give him the title. First, Lambert is going to take three days off to go fishing with some friends from his police academy days.
“I have wonderful staff around me and in my absence they run things very smoothly,” he said.
Before introducing Lambert as police chief, Skeens said Dublin has a “long tradition of hiring really fine police chiefs” and Lambert will be no exception. He said two things that impressed him about Lambert was that Lambert told him he still wanted to work for Dublin even if he didn’t get the job and Lambert never mentioned how much he would be paid for the job because money wasn’t “the big deal.”
Skeens also said Dublin “is not necessarily a place to work as much as it is a family.” He said Lambert is now “a big brother” instead of a “little brother” and it’s “an honor and privilege to have you here.”
A “meet and greet” will be organized after May 1 to allow the public to meet Lambert, Skeens said.
Vest told council they made a good decision in appointing Lambert, adding, “He’s a fine young man, but if he gets out of hand, call me.”
One of Lambert’s former teachers told council Lambert came to her when her husband died and offered to help in any way possible. “He did things for me I couldn’t ask my own family to do,” she added.
Lambert told town council he would like to ask Skeens’ permission to continue to keep badge number 471 even though it is customary for chiefs to wear the 401 badge. He said Vest was chief for so long he “should have his number retired for a while anyway.” He went on to ask Skeens to “break my heart” at a later date if that’s not Skeens’ wishes.