When Mark and Nicole Creech first met over a decade ago, it was just the right time and the right place for both of them in life.
Nicole was working as an investigator for the Department of Charitable Gaming and Mark was working as a firearms instructor for the police academy at the Department of Criminal Justice Training (DOCJT).
"When she was an investigator for the Department of Charitable Gaming, that's when she expressed interest in becoming a firearms instructor for her agency," Mark said. "I was already a firearms instructor at the police academy, and a mutual friend and colleague asked me to work with her to kind of get her ready for that."
How their relationship developed from professional to personal, Nicole said, is up for debate.
"He says I stalked him," she joked. "I say you can't stalk the willing."
Regardless, the two were attracted to each other.
"She's always very kind and friendly to everybody," he said.
And Nicole, who had previously been married and had two daughters with her first husband, fell for Mark's "passion for helping other people be the best person that they can be, and his patience and understanding to little girls."
So, with the encouragement of some mutual friends, the two started dating for a few years and then got married.
Mark said it worked out fine, too, because although he was working at the DOCJT, he was working as a civilian, and there wasn't really a conflict of interest.
"It was just the right time and the right place honestly," Nicole said. "He thanks God occasionally, and the other times he says, 'What have you done to me, Lord?' But I think the Lord just put us at the right place at the right time so that we could meet one another."
The two, who have individually been serving Madison County through separate law enforcement careers, have been married for 16 years now. They're also both graduates of Eastern Kentucky University, where their respective law enforcement careers started.
Born in Winchester, Mark lived in several different places, but mostly grew up in Kentucky. However, he landed in Richmond because since he was 9 or 10 years old, he knew he wanted to pursue a law enforcement career, and EKU was the place to go.
"Eastern at that time, and I'm sure they still do, had a very good program -- police administration, police studies as it's called now," he said. "So I went and got a degree in that, so that's what founded me in Richmond."
His first job after graduating from EKU, though, took him out of town temporarily as he was working as an officer for the Bowling Green Police Department.
"I knew I wanted to be a cop. … Once I got into the job, I found out how much I enjoy helping people and what intrinsic motivation it gave me to know that I helped somebody, I've done something good for them," he said.
"I can remember specifically, a particular incident, where a single mother's child's bicycle got stolen. Apparently, every penny she had, she put into this child's bicycle, and the day that we found it and got it back to her, and how she was so elated and joyed, because now her kid could have that bike she wanted for him," he said. "That was just a tremendous feeling."
Mark returned to Richmond when he accepted the position with the DOCJT, which he said was still rewarding, even though it wasn't patrolling a community.
"If you can relay some information that will keep an officer safer or better educated to do their job … that is a very rewarding feeling if they can utilize some information that you bestow on them, …" he said.
He worked there for several years before retiring and then returning to police work with the Richmond Police Department.
"I enjoyed policing, and I took the job at the police academy as an opportunity to teach," he said. "I also enjoy teaching. But I thought, well, I have a few years left in me, maybe I can do some good. So I wanted to try and do some good here in Richmond."
Not too different than Mark, Nicole also knew she always wanted to work in law enforcement.
"Ever since I was a little girl, I've always wanted to be in law enforcement in some capacity," she explained. "I grew up with a family full of military, and also my grandfather was a police officer, and (I) just listened to his stories and growing up."
Additionally, Nicole was always trying to solve everyone's problems.
"So I think this was just a good avenue for me to go into," she said.
Originally from Ross, Ohio, Nicole moved to Kentucky to attend EKU, her number one college of choice because of its police administration program. She was also considering a college in California, and her parents said EKU was much closer and more drivable.
While in college, she worked an internship through the Georgetown Police Department, where she worked with the Bluegrass Drug Task Force. The internship was for one year, but Nicole said she was able to do it for three years after the department decided to keep her on.
However, she left her law enforcement career at the time, because while she was in college, she also got married and had kids. She decided it was best for her to stay more local, and she started working at First Southern National Bank.
Once her children were in kindergarten, Nicole jumped back into law enforcement.
"My passion has always been law enforcement, and I really wanted to be able to go out and serve the public in another way," she said. So that's when her career with the Department of Charitable Gaming started, and having the banking background helped her out. She remained as an investigator with the Department of Charitable Gaming until 2016, when she started working with the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
"I loved what I did at the Department of Charitable Gaming. I loved the financial crime. I loved the intricacies of complex cases," Nicole said. But she was looking for a challenge, and she had friends working with the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, so when a position opened, she went for it.
"I love my job, I love attempting to make a difference in the community and … always treating everybody with respect," she said. Sometimes, though, her job deals with young people drinking.
"We don't aways see them in their best light, but we always try to make them understand that this isn't going to define them. … I care about what I do, and I care about the community and making sure everybody goes home."
For the majority of their relationship so far, Mark was working as an instructor with the DOCJT, and Nicole was still working with the Department of Charitable Gaming, which they said actually worked out for their home life.
"… The academy was very family oriented, so I could take time and go home and be with the kids if they had a snow day, or I could take time and go home and be with them if they were sick, because I did have responsibilities to teach, however, it wasn't as critical as you could imagine a law enforcement official because if there was an injury accident, it's, 'Hey, I can't go home, because I have to work this injury accident,'" Mark explained. "However, if I could find someone to cover my shift to teach, or I wasn't on the schedule at all … the way our lives developed, I had leeway when she had to work late or vice versa."
Similarly, if other instructors asked Mark to cover their shifts, then he would check with Nicole and pick them up if he could.
And now, the daughters are adults, so it isn't a problem with Nicole working with the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and Mark working with the RPD.
"So at this stage in the game, this is working out pretty good for us," Nicole said.
Additionally, because they're both in law enforcement, they have a mutual understanding when it comes to not being home on time or being called into work.
"I think we can relate better," Mark said. "… When I was a police officer the first time, I was never married, but I would always feel for spouses. … They would always wonder. They would always assume the worst when, 'Hey, how come such-and-such is late? Has something terrible happened?'"
When he was retired or working as an instructor, he would always have confidence in Nicole, but would sometimes be in that position of wondering.
"But now that I'm kind of back into it, if she's supposed to be home at 2 in the morning, but she's not home at 2:30, I really don't worry too much, because I'm supposed to be home at 10 o'clock, and I don't get home till 3 a.m.," he explained. "So we kind of understand no news is good news. Because if something terrible would have happened, you would have gotten a phone call some way, some how."
"And as a spouse, you understand it if you get the call, and (he says), 'Oh, I'm going to be late,' or a text message, 'I'm going to be really late tonight,'" she said. "I don't get frustrated, because I understand. I've been there.
"But I'm not going to take away the fact that you don't worry less. You don't stress less. You just understand."
With both of them being in law enforcement fields, it also makes holiday scheduling more difficult, but Nicole said they still have family time.
"You celebrate the holidays on different days, and you make that your new normal," she said. "And with our children being older now, Mark has always said, 'I don't want to ask off for Christmas. I don't want to ask off for Halloween. I want those officers who have small children to be able to spend that time with their family.'"
Even when he was an officer in Bowling Green, since he was single, Mark would work through holidays if he was scheduled, and if other officers wanted to spend the holiday with their family, Mark would trade days with them.
"Here at Richmond, I've not done that for anybody, but I would be glad to any time that they could spend time with their kids … because ours are grown," he explained.
Overall, the two agree that there are many advantages with the fact their both in law enforcement careers, and there's not that many added stressors compared to other relationships.
Nicole said that it's sometimes hard for her when she feels like she can't solve Mark's problems or take away his worries or stresses that come with the job of being a police officer, but the fact that they can talk about those stresses and worries with each others helps them both out.
"Just, there's a lot that goes on with the stress of the job, and it can be a vast majority of things, and we're fortunate enough that we both understand it, but he might be dealing with something totally different than what I'm dealing with, but yet, we're able to come to each other and talk it out, and I think that's extremely important … ," she said.
Mark said he agrees that there are the worries of her being hurt or something happening, and him wishing that she were there, but he doesn't think there's anything in their relationship that has been detrimental when it comes to them both being in law enforcements.
"We'll even have debates about interpreting KRS and what that means and is that legal and valid," he explained.
Plus, sometimes they get to see each other on the job.
"There are things, different complaints, that we address," Nicole said of the Alcoholic Beverage Commission. "We will assist Richmond Police Department, and Richmond Police Department will assist us, and sometimes (Mark has) to be on shift, and sometimes (he's) not."
Mark added they don't really investigate the same cases, but his department and hers have a really good working relationship, so sometimes Mark and Nicole just happen to be at the same place at the same time.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Behind the Badge is a series published once a month in The Register to highlight first responders and those in any related field in Madison County. Know someone who has a good story to share? Email details to email@example.com.