Patrol Sgt. Wade Rogers has seen a lot in his 32 years with the Van Buren Police Department.
Rogers has worked murders, devastating tornadoes and car accidents, and he’s "seen a lot of bad things," but that never stopped him from doing what he loved, he said.
"I helped people; I helped people who couldn’t help themselves," Rogers said.
He "fell in love" with being a police officer as a kid after watching "Adam 12," a television show about two patrol officers in Los Angeles that went off the air in 1975, he said.
"I always played cops and robbers, and I was always a cop," Rogers said.
Rogers was inspired by his single mother Sue Bourns, who he said always gave him good advice and taught him to respect people, and by his uncle Floyd Pete Rogers, who started out as a police officer and later became a lawyer and then a judge.
A Van Buren boy, Rogers joined the VBPD in August 1981, just after turning 21 years old, he said. He was one of 12 officers working there at the time, and has since been through six police chiefs and seen the department grow to more than 40 officers, he said.
"He’s definitely a part of Van Buren Police Department history," said Van Buren Police Chief Kenneth Bell. "There’s very few people who have stayed here a total of 32 years."
Rogers has worked as a court baliff and a training officer, but has mostly worked in patrol, Bell said. Rogers was never really interested in becoming detective or working in other departments, Bell said.
"I think patrol, it was his calling," Bell said.
Now Rogers is set to officially retire Aug. 1. Van Buren City Council members plan to present Rogers with his Glock .40-caliber pistol at a retirement reception at the VBPD at 2 p.m. Aug. 2.
With his retirement looming, Rogers reflected on some of the things he has seen in his time at the VBPD.
"The ‘96 tornado was one of the hardest things I’ve witnessed, just because of all the devastation to the citizens and property in Van Buren," Rogers said.
That tornado hit on April 21 and was classified by the Fujita Tornado Intensity Scale as an F3 tornado and was estimated to have wind speeds of nearly 200 mph, according to the National Weather Service. It heavily damaged about 1,800 homes in the Fort Smith and Van Buren and was one of the most devastating tornadoes to hit the area, according to the NWS.
A more personal event that sticks out in Rogers’ mind was responding to the call about an intoxicated woman at a local store. The woman’s daughter was in her car outside.
It turned out the woman was abusing and prostituting the young girl. Rogers helped get the girl out of her mother’s care and into a foster home, he said.
Later, after she was an adult, the girl returned to Rogers to thank him for helping her, he said.
"That was one of the most rewarding experiences," Rogers said.
Rogers has met a number of celebrities, including Rob Lowe and Denzel Washington, on the set of movies filming in downtown Van Buren. Some of the movies he worked were "Biloxi Blues," "A Soldier’s Story," "Frank and Jesse" and "The Blue and the Gray" miniseries.
But Rogers is most proud of being from Van Buren and being part of its history, he said.
"I love Van Buren, I love the history of Van Buren," Rogers said. "I just like being a part of it, trying to help and do good."
Bell said Rogers will be sorely missed.
"When you have somebody who’s been here as long as Wade, and he knows everybody in town, he was a huge contributor to the police department," Bell said.
With his wife of 12 years, Julie, supporting him, Rogers said his time as a officer was made easier and now he is looking to do something different, though he is not sure yet what that is.
But he hopes he will leaves the police department having made a difference, he said.
"Not everything a policeman does is great; but, hopefully someone likes some of the things I did," Rogers said.