The story goes like this.
Several years ago, during his nearly 27-year career as a Lawrence police officer, Capt. Ray Urbanek responded to a call at an apartment building. After it was over, Urbanek was talking to a woman involved who said she hadn’t had any luck in getting her landlord to fix the toilet in the apartment.
Urbanek left 15 minutes later, but not before tightening some bolts and fixing the toilet.
“If that’s not full service, I don’t know what is,” Police Chief Tarik Khatib said.
Khatib said the department over the years has received many letters from residents heaping praise on Urbanek for how he handled himself when working as a patrol officer and supervisor.
Urbanek, who will retire Friday, is known for the rapport he established with the public and officers, colleagues said.
“If you just go up to somebody and talk to them like you’re some other guy on the street, they pick up on that fairly quickly,” Urbanek, 52, said on Wednesday.
The police department and city will have a public retirement reception from 10:30 a.m. to noon Friday in the jury assembly room in the basement of the Lawrence Douglas County Judicial and Law Enforcement Center, 111 E. 11th St.
Almost left the profession
As Urbanek reflected on his career this week he said he almost left the profession about one year after he was hired as a Lawrence officer in 1985. He had an opportunity to work for the U.S. Postal Service, but he said he decided to stay based on his comfort with other officers and his interest in day-to-day work.
He grew up in Topeka, graduated from Washburn University with a business degree and eventually worked for the Kansas Highway Patrol before beating out about 100 applicants for a Lawrence officer job.
He grew into the career, although he hadn’t thought about working in law enforcement growing up.
“When I was a kid it never entered my mind to ever end up being a cop. I wanted to be a cowboy,” said Urbanek, who in retirement plans to work on his rural Lawrence property, where he lives with his wife, Kerrie Urbanek.
But now he’s seen many changes brought on after more than 30 years working in law enforcement. Urbanek served six years as a patrol officer, including more than a year working in the drug investigation unit before he was promoted to sergeant in 1991. After stints on patrol and with the department’s training unit, he was promoted to lieutenant and later captain by Chief Ron Olin, who retired last fall.
For the past year he’s been in charge of the department’s information technology division, but he’s perhaps best known for serving more than 10 years before as a patrol supervisor.
‘A genuine person’
The profession has changed over nearly 30 years, especially with advancements in technology, but Urbanek said it was still important today for officers to try to establish a rapport with people when they respond to a call, no matter what it is.
“Every dealing that you have with anybody is very important, and it always has been,” he said.
His longtime colleagues say Urbanek’s interactions with the public helped make him a successful officer.
“His demeanor and the way he treats people, he’s a genuine person. He’s going to be sorely missed,” said Capt. Mike Pattrick, who supervises the department’s detectives.
Khatib said Urbanek’s influence is all over the department, including being an architect of the recent law enforcement responses to Final Four celebrations downtown in the last decade, including the major celebrations where in 2008 when Kansas University won the national championship and interactions between officers and the public were generally positive with no major incidents.
Urbanek may not have grown up wanting to patrol the streets, but he says now he made the right choice.
“The most misunderstood aspect of law enforcement is that we are just people. We have hopes and fears just like everybody else, and we go out every day and deal with other people, who have problems. We help them to the extent we can,” he said. “This job is obviously not for everyone, but I still believe after all these years it’s a very honorable profession.”