As the saying goes, “It ain’t a party until the cops come.” If that’s the case then Russell White’s retirement reception must have been a good one because the police were out in full force.
White, who has stepped down as the Alma Police Chief after 25 years with the department and 38 years in law enforcement, was celebrated with a reception Thursday that was attended by friends, family and many members of his law enforcement family.
Almost as many stories were told from White’s years of service as a police officer. Many of the stories were funny and all reflected on the positive career he had while “protecting and serving.”
“It’s kind of embarrassing,” he admitted through a sheepish grin. “My friends said a lot of nice things about me and I appreciate that. It’s hard to stand back here and listen to that when they’re talking about you. But honestly, most of these people here … I’m not any different than them. If we were talking about them it would be the same. But I appreciate it. I really do.”
White was given many gifts during the reception, including a large, wooden, handmade badge that was signed by every member of the department. He was also given his duty revolver, as is customary, as well as a box that he originally thought contained only one inexpensive pistol.
“In the box there’s a Hi-Point 9 mm pistol that they had engraved,” he said. “It’s kind of a lower-end gun. But hidden underneath it was another gun, a Kimber 9mm, which is a higher-end gun. So they pulled one over on me.”
As for the Kimber, he said, “They gave me that one to carry and “I’m sure that one was pretty expensive. I appreciate it greatly.”
White, who started in the Fort Smith Police Department in 1980 before moving over to Alma in ‘81, said he’s enjoyed making Alma his home.
“This has just been a wonderful place to work,” he said. “Alma was not originally my home but it is my home now and it has been for many years. These people have become my friends and my family and not just the people in Alma but my law enforcement family across the state. It’s nice for them to come and be here today and I hope I can do the same for them when their time comes.”
White’s tenure as chief of the Alma Police Department has been one with very few problems and a well-respected image, which has been achieved by what he called a “group effort."
“When you’re talking about the police chief, a lot of what the officers do reflects on me just like what I do reflects on them,” he said. “We’ve just always had a good department. We’ve had good people who treat people good. I’m not saying we’ve never made any mistakes or had any problems, but in general people are happy with the job we do.”
And now for White the happiness will come from times spent with his family and in his hobbies.
“I like to fish and I like to hunt. I like to travel,” he said. “My wife’s still working so some of that travel may be curtailed until we can. I have seven grandkids and they keep me busy.”
When asked if he was ready for retirement, White said, “I don’t really know. I’ve been employed since I was a kid, so we’ll try it and see. I think I’ll like it. If I don’t I’ll just go get another job.”
He added, “I keep telling my wife, ‘If you keep giving me honey-dos I’ll have to get a job so I can get some rest.’”