This story was reprinted with permission of the Ole Miss Alumni Review.
While millions across the world were tuned in to their televisions and smartphones to watch Inauguration Day festivities, alumnus Patrick Davis (BPA 97), inspector for the U.S. Secret Service, was driving the newly elected vice president and his family to various events in one of the famed armored limousines.
“I’ve been very fortunate in my career — I’ve had a lot of opportunities presented to me, and I’ve done my best to capitalize on those,” Davis says. “I think that’s helped me get to where I am. I do a lot of writing, working in the inspection division, and travel to all the Secret Service offices to conduct compliance inspections. If I’m not traveling and inspecting offices, I’m inspecting the protective divisions, but that’s not to say that I can’t be called at a moment’s notice to go provide protection somewhere.”
His career in public service started with an interest in the operation of government and U.S. history.
“It was more or less an accident, to be honest,” Davis says. “When I graduated high school, I actually wanted to be a radiologist. But while I was in school [at Ole Miss], I decided to go for a bachelor’s degree in public administration because I was very interested in government.”
A 1992 graduate of Senatobia High School, Davis says tailgating in the Grove, games at Vaught-Hemingway, Red and Blue Weekend and watching B.B. King play on a flatbed trailer in the stadium parking lot are some of his fondest memories of Ole Miss.
He counts the late Chester Quarles (MA 70), UM criminal justice professor emeritus, as being influential throughout his time as a student.
“He was probably my most committed and passionate professor,” Davis says. “He was a mentor and trusted adviser during my time at Ole Miss.”
Davis’ curriculum required numerous electives, one of which he fulfilled by applying for an internship at the police department in Senatobia.
OFFICER IN TRAINING
“When I went to apply for the internship, they asked me if I’d be interested in a full-time job,” Davis says. “I explained to the person recruiting me that I’d be interested in that, but I was enrolled in school and had every intention of finishing my degree. He said, ‘No problem. If you come work for us, we’ll send you to the police academy, and then when you come back, we’ll put you on a shift that will allow you to finish your degree.’”
And that’s exactly what he did.
Education was a priority instilled in him by his mother, Patricia Lowder, and grandfather R.T. Ward (MA 50), former teacher, principal, county school superintendent and chairman of the board of trustees at a community college.
“My mom always told me I could do anything I put my mind to, and to this point she’s been right,” Davis says. “My grandfather always told me to go after what I want and to not let anything hold me back. Most of all, he said nothing could replace a quality education and that, whatever I did in life, I needed to make sure I get a college degree.”
In fall 1995, Davis took a semester off from school to attend the North Mississippi Law Enforcement Training Center in Tupelo. After graduating from the academy in November, he re-enrolled at Ole Miss the following January to complete his degree.
His internship soon turned into a full-time job. He served as a police officer in Senatobia until October 1997, then began working with the Southaven Police Department until he was hired by the Secret Service in September 2001.
Former supervisor Jim Hawkins (BSHPE 89), special agent in charge of the Memphis field office of the Secret Service, recalls Davis’ hard work and dedication.
“Patrick was hired in the Memphis office in 2001, so we were able to work together for a few years until he was transferred from Memphis to Washington in 2008,” Hawkins says. “While I supervised him, he was an exemplary employee. We naturally have become best friends over the years, as both of us are Ole Miss fans and go to several football games together each year.”
Davis began his career with the Secret Service as a special agent. He remained in that role until 2013, when he was promoted to assistant to the special agent in charge, also referred to as “shift leader,” on the vice presidential division.
He was then reassigned to the position of assistant inspector from 2014 to 2016 before being promoted to his current role as inspector.
“It’s been amazing to see how Patrick’s career has grown,” Hawkins says. “He is so well liked by those he comes into contact with, plus he is a very capable worker and leader, which has led to him shooting up the ranks of the Secret Service.”
While some refer to the inspection division as the internal affairs of the Secret Service, Davis says there’s a lot more to it than that.
“We oversee the internal affairs-related investigations, employee integrity investigations — criminal and administrative in nature — as well as any type of sensitive investigation.
“We also oversee the planning and coordination of compliance inspections for the Secret Service for all of our offices globally, which means we go in and make sure that the offices are running well and that they are compliant with Secret Service and Department of Homeland Security policies and procedures.”
A day in the life of an agent is never dull. Inspections and protective duties aside, Davis’ favorite part is essentially having a front-row seat to history.
“The protective mission that we do preserves Article Two of the United States Constitution and is directly tied to national security — it’s a pretty big responsibility to shoulder to be an agent in the Secret Service,” Davis says. “I think the employees we have do it well and do it with humility.
“I spent seven years in the field, working criminal investigations, everything from counterfeit currency investigations to credit card fraud, bank fraud, computer hacking and things of that sort. Working protection for the vice presidential protective division and temporarily being assigned during the campaign to different candidates and nominees is very interesting. It’s all part of history.”
The serious nature of standing between potential harm and the individual he or she is assigned to protect is not lost on any member of the Secret Service.
“It varies in number and size, but it’s a collective effort,” Davis says. “It’s a group of individuals who prepare and train so that hopefully those days don’t happen.”
While the job is daunting, it also includes times of fun and laughter. Agents assigned to a permanent protective detail essentially become part of the extended family of the person they protect.
“When you’re on a permanent protective assignment, you are with these people day in and day out,” Davis says. “When they go on vacation, you’re on their vacation with them, except you’re not on vacation, you’re working. It’s always interesting to meet our protectees for the first time — all of us are human. The first time you’re around people like that, it’s probably awe- inspiring, especially for younger agents.”
Travel is not only a job requirement for Davis, it’s also a perk. He now counts visits to 37 different countries and almost every state as part of his work experience.
“You know coming into it that you are going to be required to travel,” Davis says. “But you get to experience some of the things you may not have otherwise been able to experience in life. I’ve been around foreign heads of state and foreign leaders when they come into our country, and that’s an experience like no other.
“Take it from me, a kid growing up in Mississippi — I’ve been to places that I’ve never dreamed of. It’s a great organization to be a part of. I would highly encourage anybody who’s feeling the call to serve their country in any way, if they meet the qualifications, to consider joining the Secret Service. It’s just a fantastic organization.”
With a unique mission containing both an investigative and protective component, the Secret Service is unlike any other federal law enforcement agency. Davis says those interested in joining should focus on their education and obtain a college degree. Two to three years of life or work experience after college graduation and/or a military background are highly desirable.
“In my new agent training class, I had a newly graduated college student, schoolteachers, police officers and an Army ranger,” Davis says. “It’s quite an eclectic group when you start looking at the candidates that we put in our training classes.”
Davis’ next career goal is to become the special agent in charge of one of the service’s field offices or protective divisions.
“[Being in the Secret Service] is a humbling experience, but it’s also an important job,” he says. “We train hard to do our job, and you can’t get caught up in the limelight of what goes on.
“If you happen to be on the president’s detail and you walk into an event, they’re not playing ‘Hail to the Chief’ for you. You have to remember that you’re there to do a job.”
By Annie Rhoades. Uncredited photos courtesy of Patrick Davis.
This story was reprinted with permission from the Ole Miss Alumni Review. The Alumni Review is published quarterly for members of the Ole Miss Alumni Association. Join or renew your membership with the Alumni Association today, and don’t miss a single issue.
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