Richmond Police Department's Ankit Patel has been with the department for almost four years, and ever since he started, he goes above and beyond to do as much as he possibly can for the department.
He's a member of the police training officer program where he helps newer officers learn the ropes within the department, a member of the honor guard who helps present the colors whenever needed or to support other departments when there are line of duty deaths and he's a member of the bike patrol — none of which are required for RPD officers. Instead, they're all things he signed up for and was selected to be a part of after interview processes.
Patel explained that ever since he joined the department a few months after graduating from Eastern Kentucky University with bachelor's degrees in criminal justice and police studies, he knew he wanted to do a variety of things, and of those responsibilities, he enjoys training new officers the most.
"I enjoy it because, you know, I'm helping the newer officers," Patel explained. "I know as a new officer, I was super nervous and didn't know what to do when I came out of the academy. Now I get the other side of that, I get to help them. So I feel like I can help them adapt and become better officers as they go along."
And even before he joined the three units, during either his first or second year with RPD, he was nominated for an award for most overtime worked within the department.
"It was one of the years that we were short staffed and really didn't have many officers, so during that time, I took it upon myself to stay after and help shifts," he said. "Or if they needed officers, I'd volunteer to help just to keep the numbers up on the streets. At the time, I was a young officer, and I was wanting to just get out there and do as much as I can. I've worked shifts with a less amount of people than we should've had at the time due to low staff … and I understood how hard it was."
By the end of that year, Patel said, he had worked more than 450 hours of overtime.
"It's never fun being on the streets working the whole city with just three officers, so I was always willing to help when officers needed help or shifts needed to help," he explained.
And if there's one thing Patel takes seriously when it comes to being an officer, it's helping people.
"You never know if somebody's having a bad day, and they don't have anybody to help them. You never know what people are going through. So I think it's important to be able to help people when they need help, because if not, they're just going to keep it to themselves and not have anybody there."
He went on to say that helping people overcome those bad days is what keeps him going, as well.
"You know, I could have a bad day, but come to work, and you help a kid or help change a kid's day, it could make your day a whole lot better … ," he said. "If I can change one person's life and make their day better or life better throughout my career, I think I've done a good job as far as that goes."
On top of that, the fact that officers are always helping people is what made Patel want to become one when he was 10 or 11 years old.
Originally from Corbin, Patel's family owned businesses, including gas stations, and Patel would help work them.
"So I always saw law enforcement in the stores … I've been around law enforcement a lot and aways liked the idea of becoming a police officer," he said.
The other reason he liked that idea was because of the way officers are viewed in a community, and once he joined RPD, it was pretty close to what he expected.
"I did a lot of a lot of ride-alongs throughout college, so I kind of had an idea of the agency and everything and knew that this was where I wanted to work," Patel explained.
He said back home in Corbin, since it's a small town, it has a smaller police department where there isn't much room to move up in the ranks, and departments such as Lexington Metro and Kentucky State Police are bigger than what he wanted.
"I like the idea of actually knowing the officers I work with instead of just being another badge number, pretty much, because … like Lexington Metro has 600-700 officers. Places like that, you're just pretty much another officer working your days and that's it," Patel said.
He added that RPD has about 60 employees, so "you know everyone you work with on every shift," as opposed to only knowing the officers on the shift he works.
On top of that, he's also learned to like the community of Richmond, where he's lived for about six years, for similar reasons.
"It's not like Lexington where it's so big you're overwhelmed," he said. "It's a smaller city where it seems like a lot of people know each other and stuff like that. Everything links together, and that's what I like about it. And it's not as small as where I'm from, Corbin, so it's not a teeny tiny town."
As of now, he plans to stay with RPD, move up with in the agency and eventually retire from the department.
"It's not the standard 9-5 job where you go in and do the same thing behind a desk," he said. "I like the aspect of you never know what your day's going to entail. It could be good, it could be bad, but every … day is different, every hour is different."
Patel said he also enjoys being involved in the community and doing a lot of the public events that RPD offers, such as summer camp programs and Dunk-a-Cop.
"One of my favorites is probably Shop with a Cop, getting out and being able to give kids Christmas gifts whereas normally, those kids that we shop with would not be getting Christmas gifts, and just seeing their face light up, even if it's for a simple thing such as clothing items," he said. "During those events, they get to go choose toys as well as clothing items, and most of those kids, believe it or not, want more clothing items."
He said by helping the kids, he gets to help the parents as well, because normally they're struggling, too. And helping families by being involved is important to him.
"Especially in today's society where officers are getting to be viewed as negative, we've seen it ourselves: We go to a house and kids are afraid of us. It's super important to flip that image in their head, and those programs help with that, 'cause we're the ones they need to come to instead of running away from us," Patel explained.
If officers can change that image, then it will help the children come to officers when they need help or even just to say, "Hi." It'll also show them that officers are good role models, he said.
"As far as the role of police officer, I think people get into it — I mean we're not in it for the money, obviously — our end goal is being able to help others, doing the right thing, no matter what," he added. "People look up to us, children, kids in the neighborhoods … so we're always being watched. That's what I enjoy about the job is being able to be a role model for numerous people and being able to help people, no matter what it is."
However, he pointed out he, along with other officers, can't do the job all by themselves.
"I guess a lot of aspects that people don't realize with police officers is the fact that the support system is super important with us," he explained. "We do have those bad days … and unfortunately, we have to have people that talk to (us) … friends, wives, anything like that. A lot of people don't realize that police officers' jobs are hard, but they do have their spouses there to help as well, and when you go home, you have people like your spouses to help you through days. … A lot of times that support system goes unnoticed in law enforcement. Spouses don't really get the credit they should in helping."
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.