Downtown Patrol Officer Sam Spencer will retire April 28 after a collective nearly 46 years in law enforcement.
"Since I was 17 I have served my God, country and fellow man," Spencer said. "There's no better country in the world; there's no better profession."
His mom's dad was a Texas Ranger before becoming one of the original border control agents, and his dad's grandfather was a deputy sheriff in Saline County. Growing up around these men, and having a love for a fictional television show about two LAPD officers called Adam-12, Spencer said ever since he was a kid the profession fascinated him.
Spencer went into the military when he was 17. At 21, he got out at and joined law enforcement with immigration and border control. Five years later, he went to his first police department, which had always been the goal. It was a pay cut, but he was happier working the streets.
In 2001, he joined the Hot Springs Police Department.
Looking back, he reflects on the good and bad that's come with the job.
"The main thing, and I might get sentimental, because the main thing I've asked since Vietnam is why I've survived and my buddies haven't?" Spencer said.
"I've lost five friends. Two state troopers, a police officer ... a Texas Ranger and Scrimshire here*. And I wonder why I've survived but they haven't. But I've learned it wasn't my place to question, it was the Lords. But I won't forget them. They're constantly on my mind.
"Everyday I go out, I say a prayer for the officers. And my wife never said anything until now. And it's time for me to take care of her, but I'm going to miss working with these guys. ... 46 years it's been my life, not counting the military. I've worked with the heroes. ... They live everyday knowing that could be their last. But we don't think about that. We think about what we can do to help."
Now, at 67, Spencer said it's time to retire.
"I have to rely on my experience and knowledge, rather than I don't see things as fast as these younger guys do," he said. "I'll see things and I'm alert to them, but it'll just take a second, I can miss something and these younger guys can see it, and I can't be out there — I'm not going to risk another officer's life by staying out here.
"If I had a desk job it'd be something else. But if I'm out here I could cause another officers life or another persons life and I don't want to be responsible for that.
"And, my wife, we've been married 36 years ... and she's been through several of my shootings, when I got stabbed in the shoulder, all that. She's been through all that. ... I'm really doing it for her, mainly, and for the guys that are here."
"I'm going to miss working with them," Spencer added. "There's nothing like going to work with a person whose willing to risk everything."
For future generation officers, Spencer said the one thing to know is "it's about the service."
"You start out learning ... and this is a job that constantly changes. Constantly changes," he said. "From the day I started, to the time now, you cannot compare the officer and their training. I was a police officer, just a police officer who enforced the laws. Now we're everything else.
"And what we see out there, we have to live with. What we see, what we hear. Everything that happens out there. What could I have done more if a person dies? What could I have done more to save that person's life? What could I have done more to change this or change that? You're always second guessing yourself."
"To the community: It's been an honor, it's been a privilege, to serve them and work with them," Spencer said.
"We've got a good department, we're better than we've ever been now. The officers are a lot more professional, trained — hard trained, it's constant training. ... And they (the community) should have confidence in their police department, fire department, all them. All these guys are really professionally trained."
Now, Spencer said his responsibility lies with his wife and taking care of his family.
"But every time I hear a siren, I'm going to wish I was there," he said.
*Officer Brent Scrimshire was a HSPD Officer killed in the line of duty March 10, 2020.