As a child growing up in Warren, Ark., Phillip Hammons looked forward to occasional family outings to Little Rock, which always involved a stop at a Chinese restaurant across University Avenue from the UALR campus.
“As a kid, sitting over there, I always looked over at the school and thought really smart people must go to school there,” Hammons said.
He had a chance to find out in 2003 when, as a 21-year-old, he transferred to UALR to complete a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.
“My older brother inspired me to get into law enforcement,” Hammons said. He enrolled in the University of Monticello’s brand new criminal justice program. During that time, he participated in several field trips and got to meet people from the UALR Department of Criminal Justice.
“We came up here for a couple of job fairs, and I started meeting some of the professors. I met with Dr. (Jeffrey) Walker, Dr. (Mary) Parker, Dr. (James) Golden and talked with them about the program. Just hearing through the grapevine, through the UA system, I learned that UALR had the best criminal justice program.”
When his brother finished his degree in 2002 and headed to Little Rock for a police academy program, Hammons came with him, enrolled at UALR, and finished the last two years of his bachelor’s degree. He went on to complete a master’s degree.
If he wants to go further, UALR offers the state’s only Ph.D. in criminal justice.
For now, Hammons is enjoying his work as a police officer on the street at the North Little Rock Police Department, although he is being recruited by the U.S. Marshal Service. He credits his education at UALR for his thorough preparation for his success.
“New police officers can really struggle with their report writing – seems like for an entire year as a rookie, you just never can get a report right,” he said. “I came in the door at the police department knowing how to write reports. Writing a two, three-paragraph report was nothing for me after writing several research papers at UALR.”
He said getting a degree expanded his understanding of other cultures and people with other backgrounds, helping him better interact with people and be a better police officer on every level.
And some of his coursework at UALR has made him an invaluable asset for his employers.
“I have a chief in North Little Rock who really stresses education, and as soon as he found out that I had a master’s degree from UALR, he has utilized that education. I helped them keep the department’s National Law Enforcement accreditation,” Hammons said. “Here recently, my captain was interested in some mapping,” he said. “He called me.”
Hammons said his relationship with his professors continues after graduation.
“It doesn’t end there. I can still go up there, I can see them, I can interact with the professors. They are more than happy to work with me on any project because they like getting out in the community working and doing all that stuff as well,” he said.