NOTE: This is the third in a series profiling officers with the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s Office of Public Safety.
As chief investigator for UALR’s Department of Public Safety, Det. Tonya Soule’s many duties include being in charge of the property room and evidence room, as well as scouring police reports to resolve them in a timely manner.
But it is being able to help affected victims that she most enjoys.
“It’s nice to be able to give them comfort,” Soule said, “to let them know we’re working for them and maybe get them restitution.”
Soule’s career path has taken a few twists since she took her first job in law enforcement to get “her foot in the door.” She started as a dispatcher in the Perry County Sheriff’s Office in 2005.
“I was going to school for radiology,” she said, with a smile. “I thought that was my passion. I took a criminal justice course, and the rest is history.”
She went to work for the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in 2007 and was later hired as a patrol officer at UALR in 2010.
“I heard a lot of great things about the department here … I knew a lot of the officers, they were good people, and I knew UALR had a strong criminal justice department,” said Soule, who is enrolled as a non-traditional student at the university.
“I love my professors. They are very knowledgeable, and they try to accommodate my sometimes hectic work schedule,” she said. “It helps that much of it is online.”
Soule is also active as president of the Little Rock Aikido Club, a UALR registered student organization that focuses on the Japanese martial artform. Aikido emphasizes the dynamics of movement as opposed to purely punching or kicking.
She said she hopes to graduate by December 2014, adding that although she feels strongly about her educational pursuits, it is her job that keeps her focused.
For example, she is involved in ensuring that evidence and case files are up to standard, as outlined by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. Soule hopes the evidence room reflects even more organization and efficiency as she seeks ways to improve operations under her management.
Soule’s dedication has not gone unnoticed.
The University District Neighborhood Association recently recognized her with the award for the UALR Public Safety Officer of the Year. The association annually recognizes one officer from UALR and one from the Little Rock Police Department for outstanding service to the district.
Bob Adams, UALR’s vice chancellor of finance and administration, said he wasn’t surprised at Soule’s selection.
“She often takes the initiative to search for better ways of enhancing our public safety programs,” he said, adding that Soule “approaches sensitive issues in a professional manner and brings a keen level of expertise to all her assignments.”
But for Soule, the honor was unexpected, especially since she is the first to admit that often law enforcement is not at the top of the list as a person’s favorite agency.
“Very rarely does the public hear about the many positives of law enforcement officers and the good work they do,” she said. “I was not expecting the recognition, but to be nominated is an honor in itself.”
Soule concluded, “It’s a big deal on the one hand. On the other hand, it is humbling to be recognized for just doing your job.”