An Aberdeen Police captain with decades of law enforcement in his past is retiring this week. As he leaves, a lineage of South Dakota law enforcement history retires with him.
State and local officials joined others in the Aberdeen community to honor Captain Neil Bitter Thursday. He served more than 35 years with the Aberdeen Police Department. He also served as a deputy and a military policeman before that.
"Almost 40 years and yes I'm ready," Bittner said.
He's held multiple positions in the Aberdeen department through the years. To get his family's history in South Dakota law enforcement, you have to go back to the early days of the South Dakota Highway Patrol.
Its first superintendent was Walter Goetz, great uncle to Bittner. Colonel Craig Price, the patrol’s current superintendent, spoke at Bittner’s retirement open house.
“History is a real big part of the Highway Patrol. We take a lot of pride in that and the tradition that we do have,” Price said.
Price says there have only been 13 superintendents in the history of the Highway Patrol, making Bittner’s connection to the first superintendent very interesting.
Bittner says he's the only one left in his family serving in law enforcement. Now that his career is ending, he presented Price with historic items from his great uncle including a plaque and his badge. Those items will be on display in Pierre.
“It’s just been an honor to know that we had someone like this but yet sad that you didn’t get to meet him and thank him for everything he’s done,” Bittner’s wife Valerie said.
But Valerie Bittner joined dozens of others thanking her husband for his service. She says she met him when he was working as a police officer on the street.
"Well, one day I was driving down the street and it was a 25 mph zone and of course I'm doing about 30 in the 25 but the 25 went down to a 20," Valerie Bittner said.
Next thing Valerie Bittner knew, she had flashing lights behind her with a $50 speeding ticket in her hand. At the time she didn’t know the officer who wrote that ticket was her future husband.
"It has come up in conversations once in a while because, you know, sometimes I just have to remind him," Valerie Bittner said.
Bittner will still work part time after his retirement from law enforcement.
Valerie Bittner tells the story of how she met her husband.