MR. LAWRENCE SLAMONS
November 19, 2014
Conducted by: Anne and Laura Minton
A.Minton: …at Western Illinois in McComb, and that--
Slmaons: during ’69…
AM: Right. Do you remember what was going on during that time? Was it the Vietnam War?
S: No, it was Kent.
AM: Kent State University. But that was because of the Vietnam War protesting?
S: Right. And there was a shooting with that.
AM: What were you doing at Western Illinois in McComb?
S: I worked as an officer, an assistant, and then became a director.
AM: Was it a police department or just a security?
S: No, it was a police department. We stayed there until I found out about this program [University of Arkansas] and tried to find out enough about it to send in an application. That was in 1971. Did you see the thing that has the answer about they were asking for?
AM (speaking to LM): You found his resume and his letter of hire…
S: Right, but this one here was the Department of Public Safety in 1971 had an Ad Hoc committee that on campus security as related to a professional police department…
AM: So in 1971, they were interested in starting a professional…
S: It was in June of ’72 that I was appointed.
AM: Why did you apply to Arkansas?
S: It was a new opportunity to do bigger things, and there was no police department, so as a result, I had to make an application based on that fact.
AM: They had no…just a security department. And you were already at a police department and so it was an opportunity then to start from the ground floor and build a police department.
S: It was a chance to do that.
AM: What did you see in Arkansas that you thought that it would be a good thing to do, here? There were other places, obviously, that you were probably looking at.
S: The location…most importantly the fact that they were trying to build a professional department, so as a result, I wanted to be sure I had the opportunity.
M: Was there somebody at Illinois that you were inspired by? Do you remember?
S: No, it was just what I wanted to do. And, the…it was time to leave, go to the next level.
M: So when you came, the question was…
LM: What was your vision for the department? What did you wish for?
M: You wanted it to be a police department?
S: Fortunately I wrote all of this out in 1970s, but my concern is that we didn’t do it one-by-two-by-three-by-four, and that’s where I have a problem, but obviously when I came here, I had to be interviewed and we went through that process and I was…
M: Well, we have the information. We have a lot of information from around the time you were hired, so we know what they said and we know what you said, so we know what your vision was… Laura has your words from 1972 and 1973 and the stuff that shows your vision, but we just wanted to know if there was something else. You just wanted it to be a topnotch police department, right? And at the time, the things that were going on, was there something you were worried about in relation to…?
S: Well, a new person coming in has got to deal with the fact that the University wanted a professional organization, but there were a lot of people that didn’t want it, and that was a problem. Getting to do what I wanted and the whole thing…people wondered why we couldn’t just go to Fayetteville. They have a police department. They could take care of it. They didn’t realize that the University was a different program because it doesn’t involve Fayetteville. It involves the University. And so all the people there that were thinking about it didn’t just say “oh hey great, let’s do it”. They had to look at it and develop the programs—the professionalism required a start right from the beginning. They had to hire officers to be a police department. It started as a security department, then to the Department of Public Safety. The Department of Public Safety was the first thing I wanted to establish. I couldn’t start with the “University Police Department”. They had around 11,000 students at that time…
M: That’s basically a small town. It seems ridiculous to not have a department of your own. 11,000 people is bigger than Prairie Grove. It’s bigger than the majority of small towns here in Arkansas.
S: Obviously they did need a department. They could see the problems that were developing at the University and they could—and so as a result, it comes naturally, it becomes important to be accepted. I went through the involvement of having to be interviewed through the police chief at Fayetteville along with others for them to decide because there were two other people who were trying to get the decision. It became necessary to make a decision, which they did, and when I first arrived, the small department and---
M: Was the officer on Storer Street?
S: Yes, on Storer. And, later on, in the 1980s, we moved to a new place.
M: When did you go from a DPS to the UAPD, do you remember? Was it in the ‘70s or was it in the ‘80s?
S: It was in—we went from security to public safety, and public safety was more professional, and of course, you have to remember that the Board of Trustees was involved and it was everything that they were doing. If I was going to be successful, they had to approve it. All this time, the security department was concerned with things that were involved with the---
M: Involved with the students?
S: Students. The people, or students, who were—they had to be approved. The ASG. They supported us, and that was important because they decided that they wanted to see that, so when we got there, of course we had to start looking at it from the standpoint of “okay so you want to be a police department. How do we do that?” We started with the 7 part process to develop for hiring new officers. It was important. When they were hired, even though they weren’t officers at that time—there were some who were already officers who wanted to come to this department knowing that there was going to be an improvement.
M: Yeah, there’s a process and a professionalism in the department—I mean, doesn’t every officer go through the FBI Academy at one point?
S: That’s later on.
M: Right, but a level of professionalism that was, I think, probably part of your vision: you wanted a professional, well-trained department to take care of the community that is the University. And getting the buy-in from faculty, staff, students, the student government, the Board of Trustees…all of those people had to buy in, and that was a long process to get everyone on board.
S: Right. You’re talking several years. But, once it was, we started the thinking process of “what does that mean?” You have things that just naturally—for a police department—had to happen. We hired some people there that were even in the 1970s, a female officer. There never was one in Northwest Arkansas. Then, we brought in an African American officer—the first one for Northwest Arkansas. That was a big thing. We moved out to show that we were professional, and that we---.
M: A lot of things happened over 35 years at the department. We know there was the shooting at the Tri Delt house—that was big because wasn’t that one of the first times your officers had to—a big event like that?
S: He had to get the people, the two officers that went in early and turned out that as they were in there, this guy came in with a weapon. It’s more than just a gun—it was a shot gun.
M: Do you remember how people reacted to that?
S: Now this is where the ?? comes in. For the first time, no guns to guns, it made everyone realize that it was going to be something they could never forget. Some of us said that because of what I’m doing, they were going to go out and shoot people, and that kind of stuff. When this came in, it made everyone realize that it was beyond what they were thinking, and it made it very strong. So, having this start at the time that we—this adds up to what we were doing.
M: And it “validified”—made your department valid.
S: As a result, we were able to generate even more support because it required the Board of Trustees and student government…
M: Was there anything else, other changes that was significant to you? You did a lot, slowly, but you added layer upon layer to the department to make it relevant today, with adding Razorback Patrol…
S: And that’s important. In other words, “how do we get the University involved?”
M: For significance…we know all the little pieces.
S: There were two shootings: that one, and Kimpel Hall.
M: Right, and Kimpel Hall was in 2000. That was a time when a lot of school shootings were happening: high school shootings, Columbine was ’97…And so the response, because you had guys on foot patrol and guys on bikes, you had all of those things…
S: The thing was that it was a new year, and we had a special group that was out on bikes, and they were close by. If they weren’t close by, that could’ve caused all kinds of problems.
M: Thinking of all the campus shootings that happened subsequently, Virginia Tech, all of those things…your guys were right there. Part of it was luck, and part of it was planning.
S: Yeah, but the fact is that we had them out. We started that for the new students coming in, and we wanted to make sure that all the people…sure enough, it turned out to be perfect timing. It really was--.
M: We have the video tape, and all of the news footage. The last question is: when you retired, what did you hope, when Gahagans came in, what did you hope for the police department?
S: We had already made progress, but now, this was an opportunity for them to add to that, and add more. And they did. They added…that’s where Gahagans is important. He was there four or five years before I retired, so he was part of it. The question would be better answered by Gahagans. My response would’ve been what I expected it to be, and things like that.
M: Right. You would’ve expected him to do what he’s done, and improved upon what you have left…
S: I don’t want to say “improved on me” as much as “improved on the department.”
M: Right, that’s what I mean. Make improvements with the technology, and all the things that are out there.
S: Also to go from 11,000 to 26,000…
M: That’s a huge population bubble that you have to manage.
S: The number of officers has increased, with that.
M: I would think that just maintaining the professional department would be what you hoped would continue. That level of professionalism, and that level of community support…When you left, obviously when you leave a job, you hope to have left behind a better place than it was when you started, and that you felt comfortable leaving it in his hands…
S: In fact, getting Gahagans…back in 2001 or something, I personally made it happen; in other words, he came in, and I brought him in from Oklahoma. He definitely is my successor, and still…
M: You found him, and brought him in.
S: I had to make sure that we had our program already established, and worked it out together.