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story.lead_photo.caption Deputy Jack Campbell of the Saline County Sheriff’s Office was recently named Saline County Officer of the Year by the Attorney General’s Office. Campbell has been in law enforcement for 20 years and has spent the past five serving as an environmental officer for the Sheriff’s Office. - Photo by Sam Pierce

When Jack Campbell was a junior at Pulaski Robinson High School, he and his buddy decided to skip school one day to go fishing, so they ventured not very far from campus and set up their poles.

After about an hour, they heard a familiar voice coming from behind them, “How they biting today?” the voice asked.

When Campbell and his friend turned to answer, they saw whom the voice belonged to — the principal, A.B. Patrick, who had taken a personal day to go fishing as well.

Campbell and his friend were busted.

“You boys going to be a little late today?” Patrick asked.

“Yes, sir,” Campbell said, and with that, the pair quickly packed up their stuff and headed back to the campus, where they had to give the office a reason for their tardiness.

Campbell said there was no point in trying to lie because they were already busted, so he and his friend wrote, ‘fishing.’

When Principal Patrick returned the following week, he called Campbell and his friend into the office. Campbell thought they would be in serious trouble, but instead, they were praised for their honesty.

“I thought we were going to get in-house [suspension], but instead, he told us, ‘Boys, after you left, I cleaned up. I went home and had fish for dinner that night,’” Campbell said. “He told us to never do that again, but said he appreciated our honesty because so many others try to make up some story.”

Campbell was named the Saline County Officer of the Year by the Attorney General’s Office on Oct. 4.

“It was a huge honor,” Campbell said. “The chief called me while I was on the road, working.

“He told me they had submitted me for Officer of the Year, and I immediately said, ‘Thank you, it is a huge honor.’ But then he cut me off, saying, ‘You got it. You won.’

“I literally had to pull over and soak it in.”

Campbell has been in law enforcement for 20 years, having started his career with the Benton Police Department as a school resource officer and later working for the Juvenile Drug Court in Saline County. He became a member of the Saline County Sheriff’s Office five years ago as an environmental officer.

“When this position came up, I realized I got to work with animals, as well as people, and still do patrol,” Campbell said. “Since I came to this position, I’ve gotten to work with detectives, patrolmen and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.”

Campbell graduated from Pulaski Robinson High School in 1984 and was in the second graduating class. His father and grandfather were both police officers, but before joining, he worked as an auto mechanic, where “he made more money,” he said.

“But I wanted to do what makes me happy,” Campbell said.

He said one of the things he likes about his job is how it changes day to day.

“You never know what you are going to run into when you come in,” Campbell said.

In his recommendation letter to Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, Sheriff Rodney Wright said Campbell has “an uncanny way of warming up to people and making them feel comfortable when they are discussing their problems to a law enforcement officer.”

“Deputy Jack Campbell is another great example of the pride, professionalism and spirit of community service displayed by our deputies as embodied in our mission, vision and values at the Saline County Sheriff’s Office,” Wright said in a statement to the Tri-Lakes Edition.

During his tenure at the Sheriff’s Office, Campbell has dealt with numerous animal cases, including a loose cow on Arkansas 5; chickens attacked by a dog in East End; horses not being fed properly on Chicot Road; and vicious-animal complaints.

“Deputy Campbell is well-rounded in every aspect of his job,” Wright said in his recommendation letter. “He handles each call with a great deal of respect and compassion for the victims, complainants, suspects and even the animals.”

Campbell and the Sheriff’s Office rose to fame last December after a post about a case involving a pair of owls had more than 25,000 hits on Facebook.

“One of the owls was hit by a car, and the person who hit the owl called it in,” Campbell said. “He said it just flew across the road, and he hit it, but the second one was alive, but it was just standing there and wouldn’t leave.

“We are talking about 6 inches from the roadway.”

Campbell said owls mate for life, and the surviving male refused to leave the area. Campbell eventually transported the owl to Lake Winona in Paron.

Campbell recalled a case in 2015, when a pet monkey got loose and bit a Target employee in Bryant. The animal was eventually located and quarantined.

“People don’t realize, even though they may look cute, they [monkeys] can carry some pretty dangerous diseases,” Campbell said. “That’s why they have to be registered through our office, and you have to contain it in an approved cage in your home.”

Chief Deputy Jay Fitzpatrick of the Saline County Sheriff’s Office, who has known Campbell since 2015, said he is one of the unsung heroes of the department.

“He is very unassuming and is extremely well-respected within our ranks,” Fitzpatrick said. “He is a multifaceted individual, and there is nothing within this job that he cannot do.

“Jack is the ultimate team player.”

In his recommendation letter, Wright also said, “There is no one that is a bigger team-player than Deputy Jack Campbell.”

“There is a lot of things that go unrecognized with Jack Campbell, whether he is pulling someone out of a vehicle that is submerged in a pond to his owl story or answering day-to-day calls,” Fitzpatrick said. “A big part of his job is the ability to communicate and connect with people.

“I can tell you, Jack is one of the best communicators. People respect Jack because he treats people with dignity, no matter what they have done. He’s a dignity guy, so we are pretty proud of Jack for that.”

Campbell and his wife, Heidi Campbell, have been married for 30 years and live in Mabelvale. Heidi is a teacher with the Little Rock School District. Together, they have four children, Kristen Campbell, Cherrish Campbell, Jack Campbell and Cory Campbell. They also have two grandchildren, Austin Campbell, 10, and Conner Campbell, 7.

Wright said Jack Campbell represents law enforcement in a way that “rekindles community trust, respect and confidence in the badge.

“The body of collective work he does every day is nothing short of outstanding.”

Staff writer Sam Pierce can be reached at (501) 244-4314 or spierce@arkansasonline.com.

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