Ronald Compton was majoring in chemistry and biology at Eastern Kentucky University when an elective class about law enforcement changed both his major and the course of his life.
“I never grew up wanting to be a police officer. I didn’t know that until I was probably 20 years old.”
In a recent interview, Compton said the class opened his eyes to a career that would be interesting, challenging, and not something that everybody could do. When he graduated from EKU with a degree in Police Administration, there was only one place Compton wanted to work.
“Lexington Police was the only department I applied to,” Compton said. “It’s home. I knew Lexington and didn’t really want to leave. I just liked it here.”
That was in 1989. On January 3, 2021, Compton retired as an Assistant Chief.
“I like it as much now as I did the day I started. I’ve not ever done anything else. I had barely turned 23 when I started this job and I don’t know anything else. I just enjoyed it.
“You know, people say if they have three bad days in a row at a job, they’ll leave. I don’t think I’ve had three bad days in a year, let alone three consecutive bad days. I’ve just been pretty fortunate.”
Compton has served at every rank in both Patrol and the Bureau of Investigation (BOI). His assignments included Patrol, the Pattern Impact Unit, Narcotics, Drug Court, the Larceny Crimes Unit, Internal Affairs, the Property Crimes Section, E-911, and he even served as a public information officer. As Assistant Chief, Compton oversaw the bureaus of Patrol, Administration, and Investigation. He served as Interim Chief prior to the appointment of Chief Lawrence Weathers, his police academy classmate, in 2018.
“I always enjoyed Patrol, but BOI is where I always felt most comfortable. It got to do a lot of things in BOI that most people don’t get to experience.”
Compton said a narcotics case that went to federal court was particularly memorable. At the trial, the prosecutor was asked, ‘Who represents the United States?’
“And the assistant U.S. Attorney said his name and my name. I always thought that was pretty cool,” Compton recalled. “Just the fact that you get to represent your community and the Commonwealth and your country, in certain cases. I was pretty proud of that.”
Compton credits Sgt. Mike Sharp and then-Lt. Stephen Stanley with encouraging him to work through the promotional process. That motivation was shared with Lawrence Weathers, setting a path for his own leadership journey.
“Nobody can change things and make things better but us. We gotta do it,” Compton said.
Over the past the 30 years, many things have changed at Lexington Police, especially the equipment and technology.
“When I was a rookie officer, you had to get to roll call early because we didn’t have take-home portable radios. And if you didn’t get there early enough, you didn’t get a portable radio because there wasn’t enough to go around.”
There’s better technology and more paperwork, but Compton thinks the bulk of the everyday job of a police officer has remained unchanged over the years.
“The calls are essentially still the same. People are still the same. The problems are still the same.”
While there was rarely a day when Compton didn’t love coming to work, there were many days with challenging and emotionally draining calls. Compton said focusing on work to help people made those difficult incidents easier to deal with. He also thinks it’s important not to take oneself too seriously.
“What I tell everybody when we meet with the rookies, is to respect the badge, understand what the badge stands for. If you respect what the badge stands for, you’ll be fine in this job. And try to have fun. Take care of business that you need to take care of, but have fun with it.”
When he isn’t working, Compton enjoys fishing and spending time with his family. Even with more than 30 years of service under his belt, Compton doesn’t want to be completely retired, and he’s looking forward to a new career opportunity.
“I’m very appreciative I’ve been able to work for Lexington Police as long as I have,” Compton said. “I’ll really miss the people, and I’ll miss the work, to some extent. It will take a while to get it out of my system.”
Chief Weathers had this to say about Assistant Chief Compton:
Chief Ron Compton and I joined Lexington Police in 1989. We are both graduates of Bryan Station High School, so right from the start we had a great deal in common. Through our time together on the department, we quickly became friends. Ron was always easy to talk to and always willing to help.
Our careers seem to take similar paths. As he promoted through the ranks, I promoted as well. It was Ron who encouraged me to participate in the promotional process. He told me that the best way to achieve change is to be on the inside instead of on the outside. His words encouraged me to continue my police career by moving up through the ranks.
I decided to retire from the Lexington Police Department at the position of Assistant Chief, after 27 years of service, to pursue another opportunity. Ron, who was also an Assistant Chief, decided to stay and continue to work towards those needed changes. When the position of Chief for the Lexington Police Department came open, I was asked by several people to apply. But, it was the encouragement I received from Ron that ultimately made me choose to return to the Department.
Ron Compton has always been one of the most respected leaders of this Department. His wisdom and guidance has produced many other outstanding leaders and helped make this one of the best trained, most respected, and most professional police departments in the state, if not the country. But most of all, Ron Compton has and will always be a true friend to me. Without him, I may not be who I am today.
Thank you Assistant Chief Ron Compton! Thank you for your leadership, your direction, your dedication, your wisdom, and above all, your friendship. I wish you all the happiness in the world as you embark on a well-earned, and well-deserved retirement.