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story.lead_photo.caption “I think that’s always been a big plus for me,” North Little Rock Assistant Police Chief Tracy Roulston said of the many roles he’s held during more than 30 years with the department. - Photo by Thomas Metthe

Tracy Roulston, a 32-year veteran police officer, grew up in North Little Rock, met his wife while working for the city and, on April 30, became the North Little Rock Police Department's new assistant chief.

Roulston, who joined the department in 1988, said he's wanted to take on a leadership role in the department for years.

The North Little Rock Police Department, he said, is in a period of growth where finding and retaining the best new officers will be integral to the long-term health of the police force and the community.

As an officer who has worked in multiple police divisions, Roulston said he's ready to help guide the department through that transition. Roulston worked in patrol, investigations, the school resource officer unit, special investigations, and professional standards before becoming a captain in 2016.

"I think that's always been a big plus for me," Roulston said in a recent interview. "I've had a very diverse background. I've worked in a lot of different places. It's really helped me get prepared to be in some of those other positions.

"Some of it has changed since I was there, but you can relate. You have a better idea of what they're talking about and I think it helps you make better decisions."

Roulston said when he heard he'd been promoted to assistant chief, the first person he told was his wife, Margaret Roulston.

"She knew how much I wanted this and, of course, she was really happy," Roulston said. "She just said, 'I knew you would.'"

Margaret Roulston said she always believed her husband would be a great leader in the department. She said the Police Department and the many officers Roulston oversees are constantly on his mind.

"I've driven by and his car is the last car in the lot," she said. "We might go to the lake for the weekend, but we always come back so he can have time on Sunday afternoon to catch up. He came home early a few days ago, but left again to visit with the midnight team. He said he never gets to see them, so he wanted to touch base.

"He's always thinking about his job. His people come first, and he wants them to know he's grateful for what they're doing."

Like Margaret Roulston, those who know the new assistant chief well say they weren't surprised when they heard he'd gotten the job.

"Everybody knew he was going to get it," said officer Andrew Miles, who has known Roulston for 24 years. "He's known for years the direction he wanted to take the department, and he's been very dedicated to reaching that goal."

Miles said Roulston is the kind of leader who gets to know each of his officers. As Roulston moved through the ranks from officer to sergeant to lieutenant to captain, he remained a down-to-earth and approachable person.

"He really looks out for the officers," Miles said. "That's a valued trait in leadership."

When he was promoted to captain in 2016, Margaret Roulston said her husband designed his office to be welcoming for officers. Besides an open-door policy, she said Roulston brought in several chairs so officers could sit down to talk. He has a toy truck filled with candy sitting on his desk so people can pop in to grab some, and he filled one wall of his office with security camera footage of the city and the department.

"It's not an office where you have to stand and report," she said. "Its' one of those where you can sit down and talk. He made sure they realized he was always open to talk."

The Roulstons met when he was a school resource officer at North Little Rock High School in the early 1990s. Margaret said they were friends before they began dating, and she knew back then that he was dedicated to his work. The couple celebrated their 20th anniversary last week, and Margaret said he's only grown more dedicated to the job in the years since.

"I'm incredibly proud of him and his dedication," she said. "He works so hard."

Michael Marion, general manager of the Verizon Arena, has known the assistant chief for 17 years and said Roulston set up their backstage security procedures.

"Tracy is somebody you can count on -- dependable, and a lot of integrity," Marion said. "The concert business can be kind of goofy, but he can be flexible. We plan for everything we can plan for in order to prevent anything from going wrong, and he's very good at that."

Marion said he knew Roulston was exceptional at his job when security teams that accompany visiting artists complimented the officers' work.

"Tracy -- he's a real professional," Marion said. "I'm not trying to be hyperbolic when I say this, he's just a really good guy."

As assistant chief, Roulston said he wants to take a deep look at the department's recruiting practices to see if there is anything to improve upon. And, he said, he doesn't want some of the old ways to get lost on his incoming officers.

"Most crimes are solved by communication, not forensic evidence," he said. "It's people. People telling us information and our ability to communicate with others. That's how we solve most crimes."

Roulston said he remembers a time when the only technology an officer took with him was a radio. In his three decades as an officer, police departments have added cameras, laptops, recorders and other tools to an officer's vehicle.

"It's helped us a lot, but on the flip side, I think it's hurt us a little bit on the communication side," Roulston said. "Now, instead of talking more like we used to, we have a tendency to use technology instead of face-to-face time.

"We remind them that it's important to get out of the car and have some contact every day."

Roulston said he remembers when he first came on as an officer, he had to become accustomed to speaking daily with people who are dealing with trauma or have recently experienced a crime.

"Most of the time, when you're going to these calls, it's not the best situations. You're not seeing people at their best," he said. "They're looking to you for some type of relief ... to help. Sometimes you can. Sometimes you can't."

Roulston said the North Little Rock Police Department is "younger" than it used to be, with more of the older officers retiring or approaching retirement age. As the assistant chief, he said he wants to be able to help the newer officers handle tough situations.

"We try to start from the very first teaching them how to be good communicators," he said. "It's about how you treat people. I've seen it so many times where you're not able to help somebody, but they still thank you at the end of it because you treated them well."

When he joined the department in 1988, Roulston said he was drawn to the sense of standing for what's right and fighting against what's wrong.

Almost 32 years later, he said he loves the job for the same reason.

"We're still trying to do the same thing we did 30 years ago," Roulston said. "That's help people."

Metro on 05/13/2019

Print Headline: Communication key for new North Little Rock Police Department assistant chief

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