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I am a Hudson Valley Parent: Dan Hoffman

Parenting with a 24/7 career

Meet Dutchess County dad and New York State Trooper Dan Hoffman

New York State Trooper Dan Hoffman grew up on Long Island, his father a high school technology and science teacher. After sports-filled high school and college careers, he leapt at the chance to move upstate to a less traffic-dominated area to start his career in law enforcement. At first, he lived out of apartments, his work life dominating all, until he met his future wife in her native Manhattan eight years ago.

Hoffman, his sons Cooper and Connor and wife Alexandra, now live in Pleasant Valley, not far from the Taconic Parkway.

Finding some regularity in a difficult field
Before his sons were born, Hoffman says, "My preference was for night shifts. There's more opportunity for a young law enforcement officer, more interesting things to be
working with."

"Night work involves DWIs, more domestic and other situations," says the ten-year State Police veteran who won his department's highest honor, the Brummer and Valor awards, for bravery when his boys were toddlers. He fought off a home invader who had a sawed-off shotgun in a tumultuous 2013 LaGrange incident.

Now that his boys are six and seven, Trooper Hoffman prefers regularity so he can spend more time with them. He has partly achieved this by transferring from previous stints on the west side of the Hudson River to Troop K, which deals mostly with eastern Dutchess County.

Cooper and Connor play sports and are members of a Cub Scout troop that Hoffman has taken to his barracks to see how law enforcement works. Even though there have been times they wish their father could be home more, they're glad things aren't as they were when they were very young. Hoffman was heading out to his work across the river every morning an hour before they woke, and often coming home an hour after their bed times.

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"Twelve-hour shifts aren't easy for a family," he admits, describing the ways in which state police shift 36 and 48-hour weeks made up of 12 hour shifts which run 7 to 7, on either an AM or PM schedule. "I also serve as a regular firearms instructor at the state police academy in Albany. I go up Monday night and stay over at barracks or a hotel through Friday afternoon and get to come home for the weekend."

It takes a village
The trooper expresses immeasurable thanks that his wife, with her work nearby at Vassar College in
Poughkeepsie, can be the "consistent parent" who gets the boys to and from school and extracurricular activities or stay home when someone's sick.

And yet Hoffman also appreciates the lessons his sons are learning from the job that often keeps him from them.

Cooper and Connor can call their dad while he's on the road, and have learned that if he doesn't answer, he'll get back to them as soon as he can. "They get the idea that police work never stops, it's 24 hours a day," the trooper notes. "They know we're there to help people. They also still think the cars, lights and sirens are cool." Hoffman adds that they've had the chance to sit in his police car, but not drive in it. Policy is strict about such things.

Troop K barracks, where Hoffman's posted, has 28 officers, several others with kids too. Hoffman says everyone's close, and the families get together regularly.

He also admits that there's hardly a moment when his family isn't on his mind as he works although he's learned to concentrate beyond that presence.

"You don't block them out. But if the public needs help, that's your priority," Hoffman says. "But there is a tension these days, what with the bad things happening to police."

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Classic trooper fashion
I ask what the boys want to be when they grow up. They respect their father's work, but Cooper is leaning towards the sciences and Connor, while being quite the artist for now, has his eyes set on being an astronaut.

"He says he wants to get off the earth," Hoffman says, a hint of humor at the edges of his voice. "His mom doesn't want that though."

What did Trooper Hoffman want to be when he was young?

"I never had anything pegged down," he answers. "I just didn't want anything monotonous."

I ask Hoffman if his current work fits that bill.

Dan Hoffman answers with a crisp "correct," in classic trooper fashion. "This work certainly fits that bill."

Paul Smart is a father who writes for a variety of publications in the Hudson Valley.

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