Tim Gray began working for the Conway Police Department in late 2011. Prior to his law enforcement career, he served in the military for 20 years.
“My time in the military prepared me for my career in law enforcement,” Gray told the Log Cabin Democrat. “Patrolling the streets of Baghdad was like being a police force ... and law enforcement seemed like a natural progression or extension of the military.”
The Conway resident joined the U.S. Army in 1990.
Gray had hoped to enlist in 1989, but was forced to wait one year because he had kidney stones. At the time, he was a student at the University of Central Arkansas working toward obtaining a computer science degree. However, money was running low. Gray continued working at American Cabinets, a factory that was stationed where Virco Manufacturing Corporation sits today, until he was able to enlist. He was a student and a father and a military man by the age of 23.
Joining the military opened up more opportunities and experiences than Gray initially saw himself taking in life.
“I wanted to better myself and I knew the military was a route I could take to better myself. I was also really interested with the military. My dad was in the Navy,” Gray said.
Gray comes from a family with a military background. His father, Louis, served in the U.S. Navy and his son, Karac, served in the Air Force as a Korean linguist. The Conway man said he always had an eye for a military career, but never saw himself becoming a police officer.
“As a kid, I was just fascinated with the ships, airplanes and helicopters,” he said. “I was always interested in the military, the hardware and the weapons.”
Upon joining the U.S. Army, Gray became an Abrams Tanks armor crew member. Through the years, he progressed through the ranks and moved his way up to a platoon sergeant and an Abrams Master Gunner.
Before working with tanks, he went through basic training, which proved to be a challenge. Gray was older than the other teens who enlisted straight out of high school. While the age difference and lack of maturity level around him was distracting, Gray continued pushing forward toward his goals.
“Basic training is a big, mental game,” he said. However, the struggle urged him to become stronger and pushed him to be better.
“The goal back then was that they wanted to break you down so they could build you up,” he said. “I gained a lot of things that I carry over into today – a good strong work ethic, completion of tasks, discipline, doing the right thing when nobody’s watching. I got a lot of that from joining the military.”
Conway Police Chief Jody Spradlin said he sees many of these qualities in Gray as he helps police the streets of Conway.
Since his time as a patrolman to a detective, Gray has always been “detailed in his work, compassionate, mature, polite and respectful to everyone,” Spradlin said.
Gray had the opportunity to learn a great deal about the world’s history during his time in the military.
Initially, he was stationed in Mannheim, Germany, but was deployed to Saudi Arabia to support Operation Desert Storm.
He recalled troops being sent over to Saudi Arabia. “But, the war was over so quickly” and he wasn’t actively involved “in the fighting.”
When he wasn’t learning and seeing all the history Germany had to offer, he served as a loader and tank driver.
Twice, Gray was deployed to Iraq.
He was deployed in 2003 during the initial invasion of Iraq as the Iraq War began. This move gave Gray the true feeling of patriotism as he backed his country. Gray later went back to Iraq in 2005.
Being deployed to Iraq during that time was something “most soldiers wanted to do because it was right after 9/11,” he said. “You definitely felt that sense of patriotism; that sense of duty; and a sense of doing your part. It was definitely a time of uncertainty.”
During the initial invasion, Gray was a tank commander and a platoon sergeant.
“I was in charge of my own tank, plus three others,” he said, adding that he was also in charge of 15 other soldiers.
The tank company Gray was stationed at while in Mosul for his first deployment to Iraq was attached to the 101st Airborne Division. Gray said this was unique and “generally unheard of because they just don’t have tanks. We supported the 101st Airborne’s operations.”
During his second deployment to Iraq, “we would do check points and traffic control points, patrol the streets of Baghdad,” Gray recalled.
The second time Gray was deployed to Iraq, he was stationed at Camp Taji. While there, he performed various jobs from maintaining security along supply routes, clearing routes for IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and more.
As his 20-year, military-based career drew to an end, Gray decided to trade one uniform in for another.
Following his service in the U.S. Army, Gray decided to begin serving others as a law enforcement officer.
Gray was discharged in 2010. At the time, he lived in Jacksonville, Florida, and took a six-month police academy course. Because the city of Jacksonville limboed and argued over budgeting with its police department, he was not hired on. About 150 other current Jacksonville officers were laid off from the department at the time.
It was at this point that Gray said he realized “God had other plans for me” and came back home to Conway. He still wanted to be a law enforcement officer, but when he first moved back to Arkansas in July 2011, he began working as a cashier at the Walmart on Dave Ward Drive.
That didn’t last long, though. By October 2011, Gray was hired on as a 911 dispatcher for the Conway Police Department. After getting his foot in the door, he was able to begin his career as a patrol officer in January 2012.
Gray stood out immediately to others at the department when his career at CPD began, Chief Spradlin said.
“The thing that stood out most to me when he first began was how polite and cordial he was with everyone,” Spradlin said. “He values the way he treats people and it shows in his work.”
Serving the Conway community is more than a blessing to Gray, he said.
“I had the opportunity to serve my country, and I was able to come back to my hometown to serve my community,” he said.
Gray’s military career has helped influence his abilities to serve and protect the community as a law enforcement officer in a unique way, Spradlin said.
“Officer Gray came into this job unlike the typical police officer,” he said. “After the military, he joined CPD and brought with him a level of maturity and life experiences that we don’t see in the typical applicant. This has allowed him to succeed in this job and understand what’s really important, not only about the job, but in simple things like his interactions with the public. He has always been respectful and represented the department well.”
While the area is “not the same town as it used to be growing up,” Conway is home and has a police department filled with dedicated professionals, he said.
“This department cares about the community and about gaining and maintaining the trust of the community,” he said.
Through the years, he has learned police officers wear many hats.
“Sometimes you’re asked to fill the role of an impromptu counselor,” he said. “And, sometimes you’re helping to find resources for someone who’s down on their luck and needs money for food.”
Gray also recalled a time he helped a woman who ran out of gas make her way to the next gas station. Small, simple acts are what help make up strong, encouraging and supportive officers, he said.
“Being able to fill all those roles and to do it honorably is one of the most important things,” Gray said.
Not only does Gray strive to serve others honorably and form relationships with the community’s youth, he does it well, Spradlin said.
Forming relationships and building rapport with residents is “an incredible example for us all” to follow, the Conway police chief said.
It’s clear, he said, that Gray understands the importance behind continuing this type of relationship with the public.
“He knows that we serve our public and they essentially are our customers,” Spradlin said. “We are here to serve the citizens and he embraces that every day. Whether it’s reading a book to a group of children at our Child Safety Fair or handing out sticker badges to kids when he was on patrol, he recognizes that children are the future of this city and nation. Det. Gray grew up in Conway and he genuinely wants to be a part in making a difference in the lives of our community. We need the support of our citizens and Det. Gray has certainly done his part in gaining that support.”
Along with finding a career in law enforcement after moving back to Conway years ago, Gray has since found a life-long partner. Gray has been married to Leigh Anne Gray since October 2016. Together, the two collectively have four children: Karac, 32; Lauren, 26; Anna, 17; and Matt, 15.