NOTE: This is the second in a series profiling officers with the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s Department of Public Safety.
It might seem inevitable that a trained law enforcement officer would have spent time playing cops and robbers as a child, but for Detective Sharon Houlette of UALR’s Department of Public Safety, law enforcement was the furthest thing from her mind when she first came to campus.
Houlette, a native of Oklahoma and 20-year veteran of DPS started her career at UALR in a very different capacity.
“I worked for the bookstore. My background was in retail,” said Houlette.
At the time, Houlette was 34 with five young children and providing a path to pay for her children’s future college expenses was foremost on her mind, and she was eager to take advantage of the university’s tuition discount offered to dependents of employees.
So when a national chain bought the small bookstore out, Houlette immediately applied for other on-campus positions. Eventually, she was hired by DPS and became one of the first female cadets trained at the Little Rock Police Academy.
“I wouldn’t say I was a natural ‘fit’ so much as I was passionate about finishing,” Houlette said, with a steady smile that seemed to belie her determined nature.
“But I’m glad I did it. I’ve loved this job ever since,” she said.
Although Houlette has spent the majority of her time at DPS in the Criminal Investigative Division, Police Chief Ed Smith recently named her the department’s accreditation manager.
For Houlette, this means days spent poring through documentation needed to prepare for the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. Houlette said CALEA accreditation will assure the department’s accountability to the community, while holding it to the highest standards.
“CALEA is the gold standard of law enforcement,” she said. “It will inspire confidence in our agency and promote professional excellence. I’m honored to be part of this process.”
Houlette said the biggest challenge about her position today is learning to do something new and striving to be among the best at it. But as for the rewards of her career in policing?
“The rewards come in making a difference in even one person’s life,” she said. “That, and being a good example for my kids.”
For more information about UALR’s law enforcement, go to the Department of Public Safety.