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Conway PD's first black officer dies at 79

Posted: July 3, 2014 - 12:10pm

Conway Police Department’s first black officer, Zamaan Ramadan (Roosevelt Fortson Sr.), died last week at age 79.

Ramadan was also the department’s first substation officer, and his coworkers say he had a special talent for communication. He was hired in November 1979 and retired in July 2000, according to sources from the police department. His fellow officers called him “Rosey” (short for Roosevelt), and even after he changed his name from Roosevelt Fortson to Zamaan Ramadan, he still answered to Rosey, they said.

Maj. Larry Hearn of the police department said Ramadan was a mentor to him when he was a young officer.

“Rosey was one of those unique guys that was easy to talk with. He would be open with you and try to share advice at times,” Hearn said. “It made a strong impression.”

Retired Conway Police officer Rod Pearson worked closely with Ramadan.

“We were hired together in October of ’79,” he said. “Rosey came to work two weeks later because he had to give notice at the UCA Police Department (then the Department of Public Safety). He was 44. At that time the department had an age limit of 45. He hired on right under the wire. I was 22.”

Pearson said he was very fond of “Rosey” and appreciated his unique abilities.

“Although police officers dress alike, they don’t always act alike. We all had our strengths or talents,” he said. “Rosey was probably the best at handling domestic disputes. Rosey could find just the right tenor in his voice to avoid escalating a domestic situation without losing control or respect of the people he was dealing with. And that’s a talent. In the days before domestic violence law as it exists today, there was very little officers could do, other than wait for one of the parties to pack a suitcase and leave. Officers had to know how to very effectively communicate with people, and Rosey was excellent at it. I was always glad when we went together, because I knew I’d let him handle it.”

He said for nearly Ramadan’s entire tenure at the police department, he was the only black officer.

“Another black officer, James Presley, hired on right at the time we both retired. But for all practical purposes, Rosey was alone his entire 20 years. No one could have handled it with more dignity and resolve than Rosey. I have no doubt he was very conscious of his sole minority status, but no one could have handled that any better than Rosey,” he said.

Pearson added Ramadan was well liked and was named officer of the year in the mid 1980s. He was also the first officer to man the police substation in the Conway Housing Authority, which was established in the early 1990s, he said.

“I was patrol commander, and I was able to monitor his progress,” Pearson said. “He did a fantastic job. He really contributed to that area becoming safe and violence-free.”

Mark Elsinger, who retired as a major from the Conway Police Department, said, “Rosey was a good, honest, down-to-earth individual. He was easy to get along with. I would have taken a dozen of him. I hated to see him go, but after his 20 years — he was like 44 when he started, and that’s a physical job — I know he was probably glad to get out from a physical standpoint. He was just a good, honest, straight-shooting individual.”

Police Chief A.J. Gary said of Ramadan, “He was a great guy to work with. Just an all-around good person. I enjoyed what little I got to work with him. He was a fun guy to be around, a dedicated employee. He served the citizens of Conway and the department well.”

(Staff writer Rachel Parker Dickerson can be reached by email at rachel.dickerson@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)

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Bad boy
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Bad boy 07/03/14 - 12:25 pm
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Great Guy.

I remember him. He was a great guy. Sorry for the Families loss.

lachowsj
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lachowsj 07/03/14 - 05:04 pm
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Incredible

For all of his tenure he was the only African American officer? How many minority officers are on the force now. With about 150 employees in a city that is 12% African American, there should be at least 15-20. I'm not talking quotas here, but really. If there were only 10 I would say it was time for some active outreach. If there were only 5 I would suspect there was some real institutional racism. If there was only one I would say there is a very serious problem indeed.

ucantbserious
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ucantbserious 07/07/14 - 08:26 am
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Hmm

By that same logic, are you asserting that the CPD is committing gender discrimination by not having women comprise 53% of the force?

It appears as though you're taking one factor and jumping to conclusions over it.

What are the demographics of the people who apply for the open positions?

Does that differ greatly from the demographics of the people who are hired?

lachowsj
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lachowsj 07/07/14 - 11:08 am
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It's a good question

I said I wasn't for quotas. I don't know how many female officers the CPD employs. But if there were no women on the force I would absolutely wonder why. Women can certainly lend a different and helpful perspective. And if there were no African Americans applying I would want to know why. That's what I mean by outreach. As I said, the population of Conway is 12% black. Just a guess but I would venture that the percentage of blacks stopped is much higher than that.

To Mike, I would hardly call my comment a "new low." I expect I will go a lot lower in your estimation before my commenting days are done. I do find it interesting that you are commenting about the Vilonia PD and unwarranted stops. The running theme seems to be that they harass outsiders but not the locals. If a black kid in Conway has a run-in with the cops, he probably feels like an outsider. It would certainly seem to be advantageous for him to look around and see someone who looks like him. It kind of takes away the "them vs. us" mentality and lends credence to whatever is happening. And I couldn't think of a better role model for such a kid.

I meant no disrespect for this man. On the contrary, I think it would be wonderful if Conway had a dozen more like him. The fact that they don't might be an indication that they are not looking in the right places.

mikeng1994
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mikeng1994 07/07/14 - 11:24 am
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You imply there is racism

You imply there is racism inside CPD. I know you can't help it, with you being liberal and all, but affirmative action is exactly what you are saying should apply and there is no place for something like that in a society that wants to put race behind them. Only the most qualified should be hired. Your comparisons are almost laughable.

ucantbserious
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ucantbserious 07/07/14 - 12:35 pm
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lachowsj

The CPD does have female police officers but I do not know how many.

If we're judging the CPD by who they employ versus the city's demographics then they should at least have five Hispanic officers and two Asian officers. I have no idea how many of each ethnicity is employed.

I'm not aware of any program where the CPD actively works to 'recruit' anyone. You may look at that and say that minorities are not being sought out but one could also look at that and say that the majority is not being sought out. As I understand it, anyone interested in applying may request an application and will be informed of when the next civil service exam will be administered.

Would you make the same assertion against the Conway Fire Department? Of the one hundred or so firefighters I believe only one is African American. Just like before I couldn't tell you the ethnic breakdown of the people applying for positions with them but I do not find it fair to judge the department solely by the end result.

Heck, when the CFD was interviewing candidates to fill the position of fire chief one of the final four was an African American gentleman from Fort Wayne, Indiana. From the article I read they started off with 27 applicants which to me indicates that he at the minimum ranked higher than 23 applicants or 85% of the pool. If the CFD's hiring practices were discriminatory in nature then it would seem to be a waste of time and money to organize a meet-and-greet with someone of non-Caucasian ethnicity.

lachowsj
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lachowsj 07/07/14 - 03:23 pm
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Demographics

Ideally, public service agencies of all kinds should at least somewhat reflect the communities which they serve. For the third time, I am not in favor of quotas. But if a particular part of the community is consistently under-represented in a particular agency, I think questions need to be asked. And, yes, the same should be true of the fire department. The explanation may be as simple as hiring people you are comfortable with and feel you can get along with and have a lot in common with. That is not overt racism but over time can have the same effect.

Some of you don't see the need to actively recruit. Yet virtually all large companies and agencies, public and private, do just that. The military is an obvious example. My son who is a mechanical engineer was headhunted because of his education and skill set. His employer could have just put out a notice and looked at whoever walked in the door but they didn't.

conwaygerl
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conwaygerl 07/07/14 - 04:27 pm
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ah

Not "in favor" of quotas, but complains about percentage of workers of a certain race. I think you are "in favor" of complaining and accusing.

You make as much sense here as you do in your gun control posts. At least you are consistent.

RIP officer Ramadan.
May we one day remember you simply as a fine officer and fine man, not just a black officer as the headline and commentary present.

lachowsj
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lachowsj 07/07/14 - 07:02 pm
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Thanks

Thanks for the compliment, conwaygerl. I know that must have been hard for you.

mikeng1994
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mikeng1994 07/07/14 - 08:44 am
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JESUS Lachowsj, really? A new

JESUS Lachowsj, really? A new low for you on a page that should be about him.

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