After nearly 26 years, Ottawa Police Sgt. Pat Hardy has turned in his badge for a well-deserved retirement.
Hardy spent most of his time as a supervisor in the patrol department after many years on patrol himself as well as four years in investigations.
But it’s the encounters he regularly had with the public that he’ll miss the most.
Looking back on his career, Hardy says he’s loved the job
“Oh, certainly,” Hardy said when asked if it’s made for a good career. “I grew up in Ottawa and came back here after being in the Navy. It’s been a great town, good people and the same with the department.”
There wasn’t a particular reason Hardy sought out law enforcement after coming back from the Navy but he recalled feeling a great deal of respect for police officers.
He recalled one young encounter with them after losing a friend in a cornfield before many officers from the police department and sheriff’s office conducted a search and located him.
He entered the career in October 1994 with an open mind and not much to go off other than what he’d seen of police work on TV.
“But it’s not like that,” Hardy said. “Though we did have some of our fair share of excitement.”
Patrol ended up being the division that spoke the most to Hardy who preferred the excitement of driving the city in a patrol car, not knowing what that day would hold. It brought a level of excitement and enthusiasm in the young officer and kept him on his toes.
It also afforded him the most time connecting with the public, which sometimes didn’t result in the most pleasant of encounters, but Hardy said he always tried to keep in mind their perspective of conversing with an officer.
“I feel I’ve always treated people the way I would want them to treat me,” he said.
“You’ve got to remember, 90% of the time it’s the worst night they’re going through. You’re either arresting them or they’re the victim of a crime. They’re going through some bad stuff,” Hardy said. “But it just takes that one person to say, ‘You made a difference, thank you man.’ It’s a thankless job but every once in a while you get someone.”
And sometimes it’s those that have been arrested that end up showing their support including one woman Hardy had arrested for DUI and then saw out in the city later on. Hardy saw her on the street and when she approached he figured she would be upset, but instead she thanked the officer and informed him the DUI “woke me up” and she stopped drinking.
Hardy went on another call regarding a juvenile having an issue at home and then a couple of years later ran into him and discovered he was in the National Guard and looking to become a police officer.
“I was blown back. And I said, ‘Really?’ " Hardy recalled. “That’s fulfilling. That probably made my whole year, just hearing that.”
Over the past two decades, police work itself has changed.
When Hardy was working in investigations, the department was working a lot of heroin-related cases as well as robberies. DNA evidence, such as blood or saliva, was still being sought but not as easy to collect today, which led to police relying on a lot of interviews and getting criminals to confess.
They’ve also been assisted through the many cameras that are not present in the area, including many security devices residents have installed on their property that police can ask for to assist in investigations.
Being a police officer, he also was used to being a resource in the community for the public to ask questions of as they got to know him through meeting at schools or from shared friends.
And for the most part, the community has been kind and supportive.
"You’re always going to find the small percentage that has a bad relationship and they stereotype all of us,” Hardy said.
He’s enjoyed the connection he’s had with the public and being a resource for those in the community to contact if they had questions.
He expects, and hopes, that won’t change.
“(My favorite part has been) just dealing with the public that maybe it doesn’t look like it but you made a difference,” Hardy said. “I’m going to miss that part, people coming up to me.”