When Ken Spadafora was hired as an Anchorage police officer in 1978, he fell in love with the job.

“I knew it was going to be a lifelong career when I started,” said Spadafora.

During his 38 years with the department, he served in a number of roles. He spent time as a patrol officer, a homicide detective and as in instructor of self-defense at the police academy.

His tenure as deputy chief of administration started last October. He said one of his principal duties was to keep morale high during times when it is most challenging to be a cop.

“There are some depressing aspects to this job,” said Spadafora. “But if we keep people motivated and keep them in a good mindset, then we’ll be more productive and we can serve the citizens a whole lot better.”

Better known as “Spad,” by his coworkers, he was integral in equipping officers with the latest in law enforcement technology.

He was hesitant to speak about the most difficult days as an officer. However, he said despite the sacrifices, police work is incredibly fulfilling.

“It is very rewarding to catch the most violent offenders in our community,” said Spadafora.

His time as deputy chief was brief – just eight months. He said he wanted to leave APD during a positive time for the department.

“It’d be easiest now for me to get off this ship while we’re on a nice, straight course,” he said. “I almost feel like I’d be abandoning the department if I left during rough times.”

Coworkers like Captain David Koch – the second-longest serving member of APD after Spadafora – said the deputy chief changed the lives of countless people.

“The city is better off when he was here and probably worse off [now] that he’s leaving,” said Koch. “There will be a big void when he leaves.”

Spadafora said he is proud of many things he did during his career. He said ultimately, he wants to simply be remembered as someone who did their best to help others.

“There’s no better feeling than helping your fellow man,” he said.

Spadafora’s last day was Friday. APD has not announced who will replace him.

KTVA 11's Eric Ruble can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter.