FAIR OAKS --
The road to Joe Patton’s police graduation ceremony Friday night took him, first, to the wrong side of the law. His unlikely and inspiring turnaround led him on a rigorous road that culminated in his receiving a police badge, pinned on him for the first time Friday by the officer, now sergeant, who first arrested him.
Thirty Sacramento area police-in-training officially became officers at a graduation ceremony at Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church, along with Patton. The cheers rang through the entire church as Patton’s name was called to walk across the altar-turned stage.
The first time, then Officer Elmore met Joe Patton, it was a late night call in Citrus Heights.
Patton, 18, broke into a few cars and stole what was inside.
"When he made contact with me I had a duffel bag of stuff that was not mine," said Patton.
Elmore arrested Patton. And with a few words into the backseat of that cop car, Elmore changed Patton's life forever.
"His words to me were pretty much it's not our faults that define us. It's what we do after that that really makes us who we are. He told me that if I just kept living every day better than I did my last, I'd turn out alright,” said Patton.
Shortly after, Patton took police officers back to each location in which he and a few friends broke into cars.
That’s exactly what Patton did. The moment left an impression on both men.
Patton says he felt like the judge presiding over his case let him off easy. The 18-year-old faced three felonies which the judge converted to three misdemeanors, according to Patton.
After three years of probation, and more than 500 community service hours, Patton decided to enroll in a police academy. His past was an obstacle for him.
Patton was denied multiple times from enrolling in various law enforcement programs. Eventually, he says, a friend who worked in the Roseville Police Department suggested he do volunteer work with the Roseville PD. For more than six months, Patton volunteered – which led to an opportunity to train and drill with police officers.
Roseville Police Chief Daniel Hahn says it was that period that Patton proved his character was a fit.
"He showed us he'd be an absolutely outstanding person for our department, and so he proved himself,” said Hahn.
Soon after enrolling in the program, he learned Sergeant Elmore was assigned to teach one of his training courses.
"I went up to him and shook his hand, told him I don't know if you remember me but you changed my life,” said Patton.
"He explained the story and immediately I knew the story. I remember working that night and meeting him,” said Elmore.
Elmore says Patton's sincerity is what stuck in his memory.
And when it came time for Patton to get his badge, he thought of no better person to pin it on him than Elmore.
"There's a lot of emotion here, it's been a long road,” Patton said.
"You try and treat everyone with respect, and it took on this one,” said Elmore.