In 1985, Steven Petrakovitz answered an ad in the San Jose Mercury News seeking a police officer in Milpitas.
Nearly 30 years later, the lieutenant who has become one of the most-recognized faces of the department is retiring. His last day is today.
“I’ve never had a job because a job is a chore,” said Petrakovitz, 50, as he reflected on his career. “I honestly never had a day that I dreaded.”
However, Petrakovitz said, a recent fight with prostate cancer — which he won — left him reconsidering his plans for the future. Now, Petrakovitz plans to spend more time with his wife and family in their new home in Arizona.
“I want to keep my good health. I want to enjoy it,” Petrakovitz said. In addition, “I’m going to make my wife happy.”
Over nearly 30 years, Petrakovitz has served as a motorcycle traffic officer, a detective, a spokesman to the press and a teacher in local schools, among other positions. The most fun, he said, was working as a traffic officer on a motorcycle. The most satisfying, he said, was teaching in schools.
Petrakovitz also is credited with solving crimes from homicides to home robberies. That includes, as a young officer, creating a profile of a burglar who was caught based on Petrakovitz’s description.
“I don’t think any rookie detective or young officer would go out of his way to try something unique like that. Back in the 80s that was big stuff,” said Milpitas Police Chief Dennis Graham.
Councilman Armando Gomez said the city would miss Petrakovitz’s hard work and demeanor.
“We’re going to miss him. The city is going to miss him,” Gomez said. “It’s going to be a huge loss for the department.”
Graham said Petrakovitz’s two guiding principles are what will remain with the department after the lieutenant leaves.
“Always do your best and always do more than your fair share,” Graham said. “Two of the principals that he taught are what he has done throughout his career.”
Petrakovitz said he hopes to volunteer with a police force in Arizona and hopefully get back into teaching.
Fighting cancer, Petrakovitz said, has given him a new perspective on the rest of his life.
"I don't sweat the small stuff," he said. "The insignificant things just don't matter."