After nearly three decades of serving the community, Lexington Police Assistant Chief Melissa Sedlaczek is retiring. Hired by the department in 1990, she has worked as a DARE instructor, an officer in 4th Platoon, and as a supervisor in Internal Affairs, the CLEAR Unit, the Bureau of Administration, and the Bureau of Special Operations. But Sedlaczek is closing out her career in her favorite bureau – Patrol – where it all got started.
“You were always doing something different. Even if it was the same type of call, it was still different people, different situations, different issues you had to solve, and I really enjoyed that part of it,” Sedlaczek said.
A native of Louisville, Sedlaczek majored in police administration at the University of Louisville with the goal of one day working in law enforcement.
“I talked about federal agencies, LAPD, NYPD… I talked about all kinds of stuff. As it got closer for the time for me to graduate, the Louisville Police Department wasn’t hiring. And my mom was afraid I was going to go out to L.A. [laughs] So she was trying to look for someplace I could stay closer to home.”
Sedlaczek’s mother, Joyce, saw a billboard that Lexington was hiring and sent her the paperwork. The application was sent by next-day mail to make the hiring deadline.
“To be quite honest, I hadn’t stepped foot inside Fayette County my entire life, except to go to a concert once at Rupp Arena after I was already in the hiring process. But I’ve loved it ever since.”
Sedlaczek says policing is a more complicated job now than when she first started. Officers are expected to know more. But even in the early ‘90s, she understood that things happening across the country resonate close to home.
“When the Rodney King incident happened in California, I would be on a call and hear about that. Even very young, I realized that things in other parts of the country do affect how you police and things you have to be aware of and anticipate.”
Sedlaczek said she’s always felt welcome and part of a group while working at the department. But with relatively few female officers on the force, anything they did – good or bad – was amplified.
“Every now and then someone would say maybe something kind of insulting,” Sedlaczek recalls. “Some people would try to support you and be there for you, but they’d say, ‘You’re a really good female officer.’ And I would think, why is there a separate category? Why am I not just a good officer? I hope that has kind of faded away.”
To decompress from the stress of the job, Sedlaczek spent time with family and friends, and she enjoys physical fitness. She even participated in the Police Games as a power weight lifter, often placing in the bench press and deadlift competitions.
When Sedlaczek promoted to Sergeant, she spent five years in Internal Affairs, which is now called the Public Integrity Unit. She described the assignment as a valuable learning experience that would shape her outlook as a supervisor.
“You learn so much in there. There was a lot of interaction with the Chief and Command Staff. I think that really opened my eyes to how you navigate certain things, and just the bigger picture within the city and law enforcement in general. That gave me a really good foundation to look at things and not make assumptions, to look at all sides and be fair.”
Sedlaczek’s plans for retirement include spending more time with family and friends, traveling, and volunteering. Although excited for the next chapter of her life, Sedlaczek says she’s going to miss all the people she’s met through Lexington Police and being part of an organization doing important work.
“What I’ve seen throughout the years are a whole bunch of very dedicated, hard-working people that come to work every day trying to do the right thing.
It is the best career I could have picked. There is nothing better I could have done with 29 years, than work for the police department. You are part of something bigger than yourself. You get to actually make a difference, whether it’s a small difference or a big difference.”