The final buzzer: Hester set to retire from Dover PD, PAL


Police Athletic League officer Master Cpl. Keith Hester talks to students involved in the PAL program at William Henry Middle School. (File photo)

DOVER — The fledgling Police Athletic League of Dover has been spearheaded by Master Cpl. Keith Hester since its inception in March 2016.

While working to keep kids on the straight and narrow path has always been a labor of love for Master Cpl. Hester, the PAL has had to find another officer to fill his shoes after he announced he will be retiring on May 6, right after he works the spring NASCAR races at Dover International Speedway.

“I’ve decided to retire a little early and I said I wanted to work at the NASCAR races at Dover Downs in May, that was going to be my last day,” said Master Cpl. Hester, who will have served 29-and-a-half years on the force when he retires.

“I believe that there’s some really good officers within the Dover police that will be ready to go and run with the PAL program.”

Dover Police Chief Marvin Mailey said he appreciates all the work that Master Cpl. Hester put into the PAL program and that it will forge forward under new leadership.

“We already have hired an officer to take over the position, though we haven’t officially named him yet,” Chief Mailey said. “What I would like to do is have that officer shadow Keith (Hester) for two or three weeks before he takes over the PAL program. He can definitely learn a lot from Keith.”

Dover’s PAL program targets students in fifth- through eighth-grade who are looking to take part in sports and other community activities.

In addition to building better relationships between communities and the police, the program helps provide mentoring and gives youngsters a chance to stay away from activities that could get them in trouble.

Once Master Cpl. Hester was called on to lead Dover’s PAL program full-time back in March 2016, he wasted little time getting started.

Mr. Hester, who spent 23 of his 28 years on the force as a student resource officer in the Capital School District, used those connections to try and secure facilities for his programs, which turned out to be successful.

The police department also bought basketballs and a pair of professional-grade hoop systems that can be moved to wherever they’re needed. It allows officers to go into different communities and have spontaneous interaction with kids.

Mr. Hester said that the PAL’s goal is quite simple — develop a nurturing family atmosphere and support system for the youngsters.

“How I explain to the kids is, ‘If you are to walk through this door, it’s not going to look like gym, it’s going to look like boot camp,’” he said. “They know walking through that door that everybody — we’re part of a family.

“We try to develop a family-dynamic thing. We’ve been pretty fortunate that all of the kids, they adapt. It only takes maybe one or two classes and they’re all on board with our expectations.”

Most recently, Master Cpl. Hester has been involved with a daily after-school basketball program at the former Simon Circle Boys and Girls Club, which regularly attracts 15 to 18 kids.

He has also helped organize a Crossfit competition for various age groups that took place at Dover Crossfit at 155 Enterprise Place.

And even in retirement, Mr. Hester will more than likely find his way back to those gymnasiums and pickup basketball games.

He said he plans to stay involved with the PAL program, he just won’t be the go-to-guy anymore.

“We’ve got some good ideas for the PAL and they’re just waiting for one thing to be scheduled at a time and then we’ll add other things,” he said. “I want to get some PAL involvement on the east side of town.

“I’d like to work with the younger ones who seem to be easier to work with, so I’m sure I’ll stay involved.”

Master Cpl. Hester said that retiring will give him the chance to spend more time with his family as well as the flexibility to participate in programs like Builders Without Borders, an organization that he spent 10 days with constructing four buildings in Rwanda, Africa, last July.

Chief Mailey said that Mr. Hester’s work is greatly appreciated within the community.

“Keith’s always been a very giving person,” said Chief Mailey. “He loves kids, he loves helping kids and assisting them in their lives. Keith is just that kind of person. He’s an outstanding individual.”

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