York City Police Capt. Ron Camacho, left, works with a Drakontas technician during York County Quick Response Team training.
York City Police Capt. Ron Camacho, left, works with a Drakontas technician during York County Quick Response Team training. (Pho-Tac.com photo)

Conventional wisdom would suggest Ron Camacho is sitting pretty.

The York City Police operations captain is the No. 2 officer in the department, described by Chief Wes Kahley as his right-hand man.

He could be angling to become a police chief himself, either in another department or in York City when Kahley retires.

Camacho's 18 years with York City Police and the 2-1/2 years he spent commanding the SWAT-type York County Quick Response Team would only bolster his resume, which is why his latest career move took some of his colleagues by surprise.

Camacho, who turns 44 next month, is retiring.

But while many retiring cops embrace a slower-paced, less-stressful life, Camacho has chosen an unconventional path.

York City Police Capt. Ron Camacho trains police officers in Leon, Mexico. Camacho joined two other American officers to lead tactical training for 60
York City Police Capt. Ron Camacho trains police officers in Leon, Mexico. Camacho joined two other American officers to lead tactical training for 60 Mexican officers. (Submitted photo)

Terror fighter: He's accepted a job with a private government contractor that will soon send him to war-torn Afghanistan. As is common among retiring officers, he used the military time he served as a young man to "buy" the two years he will need to someday collect a full 20-year pension.

"I'm going to do my part in the war on terror," Camacho said happily. "I've been looking for other opportunities for a while. I think it's a restless side in me. ... And it's something I've always wanted to do."

He will be stationed with an Army infantry company for a year, teaching soldiers policing techniques including developing intelligence and proper crime-scene investigation.

"My job will be to use my law-enforcement experience to help them mitigate threats -- basically just using policing techniques to help them (do their jobs)," Camacho said.

No 'walk in park': He's not yet sure when he's leaving, and said the company that hired him would prefer its name not be mentioned. His last day as police captain is Monday.

"It's not going to be easy," he acknowledged. "I love TV. I love mocha Frappuccinos. So it's not going to be a walk in the park. I'll be suffering right along with the troops."

But Camacho said he wouldn't have it any other way, and he isn't concerned about fitting in.

That's because he spent eight years in the Army, where he was a paratrooper and reached the rank of sergeant.

"The years I spent in the Army, specifically my time with the 82nd Airborne, really molded me into who I am as a leader and as a person," he said. "I was around great leaders there, and I'm around great leaders here."

Career path: Hired by York City Police in May 1995, Camacho spent two years as a patrol officer, then was promoted to the detective bureau, where he investigated homicides, non-fatal shootings and robberies for five years.

He was promoted to sergeant in 2002 and spent four years supervising patrol officers until becoming lieutenant in charge of the detective bureau in 2006. In 2008, Camacho was promoted to administrative captain; in 2010 he was named operations captain.

Camacho also served on the county's Quick Response Team, including conducting training for team members and being appointed commander in January 2010.

Off-duty, he conducted private trainings as well, as a presenter at 2007's South Central Pa. Counter-Terrorism Task Force and the following year at Lancaster General Hospital, where he trained security officers.

"I've been asked to be a consultant to multiple colleges, hospitals and school districts in the area," he said.

Inspired: But Camacho's watershed moment came in October 2011, when a company called International Police Training and Consulting Services sent him to León, Mexico, for two weeks. While there, he and two other U.S. officers provided tactical training to 60 Mexican officers.

Camacho has returned twice and still keeps in touch with some of the Mexican officers.

"That was one of the best experiences of my professional career," Camacho said. "I look at it as being able to save a life. ... I found a little niche -- something that I'm good at. And it's fulfilling."

It was after his initial trip to Mexico that Camacho realized he has a new dream to pursue. He said he'd already achieved his dreams of being an Army soldier, paratrooper, police officer and SWAT member.

'Huge loss': Chief Kahley said he's not yet chosen a new captain, and called Camacho a hard worker who is dedicated to his job and loyal to the department.

"It's going to be a huge loss to me," the chief said. "He is somebody I can count on. ... He's my right-hand guy and he's going to be hard to replace."

Kahley said he especially values Camacho's willingness to be honest, even if that sometimes meant disagreeing with Kahley.

"He never beat around the bush," agreed Springettsbury Township Police Lt. Dan Stump, who said that's a critical character trait for QRT. "You never had to worry about what he was thinking. There's no time to be wishy-washy."

Stump has replaced Camacho as the county's QRT commander. The two men spent a good deal of time together, both as QRT members and as ranking police officers.

"He was a great commander and a highly disciplined leader," Stump said. "He reinforced my belief that if you set the standard high, the team is going to work hard not only to meet that standard, but to exceed it."

'Proud': Camacho said he's sad about leaving his job.

"I'm proud of the officers here. I'm proud to wear this patch," he said. "I don't really think people understand how talented this department is. Just look at some of our clearance rates -- we're making a difference."

Camacho points to the fact that people are coming to York City for weekend events.

"It isn't a ghost town on Saturdays anymore," he said. "And that makes me feel good."

-- Staff writer Liz Evans Scolforo can also be reached at levans@yorkdispatch.com.