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.”
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