Former international student becomes first international Ames police officer

Officer Dilok Phanchantraurai became the first Ames international police officer. Phanchantraurai was an international student advisor at Iowa State from 2007-2014.

Officer Dilok Phanchantraurai became the first Ames international police officer. Phanchantraurai was an international student advisor at Iowa State from 2007-2014.

Tara Larson

One Ames police officer is finally living his dream.

Officer Dilok Phanchantraurai came to America from Bangkok, Thailand, as an international student when he was 24 years old. He moved to Arkansas to pursue his master’s degree at Arkansas State University after obtaining his first degree in business administration in Thailand.

Phanchantraurai moved to Ames to work for Iowa State in 2007, where he worked as an adviser for international students. He stayed in this position until 2014.

This past August, Phanchantraurai began working for the Ames Police Department as an officer.

“I was planning on getting my master’s and then going home,” Phanchantraurai said. “Instead of studying my graduate studies right away I got my second bachelor’s degree [in marketing] and then my master’s degree in business administration. Then I received my doctorate degree there as well in educational leadership.”

Although Phanchantraurai pursued most of his schooling in business, he thought adding education might be an interesting path as well.

“Arkansas State at that time didn’t have as many majors for Ph.D. and I wanted to try and see if I could do it,” Phanchantraurai said. “During my time before that in Arkansas, I worked as a graduate assistant in an international office, and I really enjoyed working there. I thought instead of going out into the business world and looking for a job, maybe I would see if I could get a degree in education and stay in the university setting.”

He finished his degree and began job hunting.

“After I finished my Ph.D., I went to work in Michigan at Wayne State University for about a year and a half or so, but then decided to come to Iowa because of job opportunity,” Phanchantraurai said.

Phanchantraurai worked with many international students while at Iowa State, helping them get visas issued, adjust to the culture and arrange classes, among multiple other miscellaneous jobs.

When Phanchantraurai began working as an international student adviser, he said he felt very comfortable working in that type of job, being an international student himself and working with the students in Arkansas.

“Switching that role of becoming an adviser from a student was not hard at all,” Phanchantraurai said. “Being there and being able to share my own experience was something I enjoyed very much.”

Some of his former colleagues said he was a great co-worker.

“[Phanchantraurai] was very good at his job here,” said Jessica Fincham, international student adviser and former colleague of Phanchantraurai’s. “He is a wonderful leader, and everyone loves him. I was sad to see him leave but happy for him with his new job.”

Phanchantraurai said he had always dreamed of being a police officer, even when he was young.

“I remember my first job application back in Thailand was to be a police officer,” Phanchantraurai said. “I’ve always wanted to be a cop, even back in high school.”

After living in Ames for a few years, Phanchantraurai heard about a citizen’s police academy offered through the Ames Police Department. This was a two-month training course where citizens learn the basics of what a cop does.

“After the citizen’s academy, I wanted to step up, so I applied to Polk County as a reserve deputy sheriff in 2013,” Phanchantraurai said.

Phanchantraurai said he got the job, although it was just a volunteer opportunity. He realized that he enjoyed it very much and wanted to pursue more.

“I realized that it was my dream job, but it’s getting late [in my life], so it was kind of a ‘now or never,’” Phanchantraurai said.

He decided to try it. Phanchantraurai began exercising and getting in shape and then applied for a position at the Ames, Polk County and Des Moines police departments. After passing the majority of the tests, Ames was the first to offer him a job, and Phanchantraurai accepted happily.

Before becoming an officer, Phanchantraurai completed a 14-week training program called the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy. After that, he continued training for three and a half months. During this time, he followed a police officer and learned how to do the job successfully before being able to work on his own.

“It’s a great department and great colleagues,” Phanchantraurai said. “There’s plenty of learning and opportunity to advance in the career.”

Commander Jason Tuttle of the Ames Police Department said he believes Phanchantraurai was a good addition.

“He brings in a diverse set of skills,” Tuttle said. “His life and cultural experience is a helpful addition.”

Although Phanchantraurai does not work as an international adviser anymore, he said he still works with students. He works with new international students at the beginning of the semester and helps them understand what type of rules America has that may be different than in their home country.

“Over time, I’ve learned through the process,” Phanchantraurai said. “It’s a slow learning process, but I’m more comfortable with America’s culture than I was in [Thailand].”

Phanchantraurai said he is excited to learn more about his job and keep advancing.

“I was lucky enough to get to pursue the dream job that I have,” Phanchantraurai said. “I have the luxury of living in such a great country, and my intentions are to continue contributing good things.”