Be a Child’s Hero
Tommy Norman wears his cape at home and on the job as a North Little Rock police officer
By Angela E. Thomas Photography by Katie Childs
“The uniform establishes the platform, but people identify with the heart of the person wearing it,” Officer Tommy Norman said.
Norman has gained national attention for his personal approach and the care and concern with which he treats the individuals he serves and protects.
“Growing up, I knew I wanted to help people. I thought about being a nurse or a social worker, some type of public servant,” he said. “Being a police officer allows you to change lives. While change doesn’t happen overnight, it’s important to me that people know me as a person who cares and who serves with heart.”
This month, Norman will mark 20 years with the North Little Rock Police Department (NLRPD). He’d been with the department for three years or so when he began to interact with the residents. And when a murder suspect called Norman to surrender, he truly realized that his efforts to treat people with dignity and respect had begun to pay off.
“It was confirmation for me to keep doing what I was doing. It was a very powerful moment,” he said.
As one can imagine, Norman has gotten to know many people in his community, and in some cases he’s become a father figure, stepping in to escort students for homecoming presentations, attending birthday parties, graduations and weddings, and visiting children who’ve been hospitalized.
It’s a pleasure for this father of two. His son Mitchell, 25, and daughter Alyssa, 22, were young when he started his career with the NLRPD, and they often accompanied him to events.
Like many fathers, Norman said balancing family, work and serving in the community takes presence of mind.
“My biggest challenge was being there more for my own children. Once you become a part of a community, they begin to reach out, and it’s important to keep your promises. Even now, my biggest challenge is to spend more time at home,” he said.
He admits there are times when he’s felt—like so many parents—that he didn’t “get it right, like when the kids didn’t make the best decision.” However, some of his best moments were “when my son graduated from boot camp after joining the military and when my daughter graduated from high school. I couldn’t have been prouder.”
He’s also excited to be a grandfather.
“My son has a daughter. She’ll be 3 in December, and my daughter is expecting—the baby is due soon,” he said, smiling. Like every grandparent, he happily shares pictures of the beautiful toddler.
“I was just 45 when I became a grandfather, so it took a minute to get used to the idea. I still feel like a 30-something-year-old myself,” he added.
Norman’s love for children is evident as he interacts with Riley, his fiancée’s 5-year-old son. He said, “We go everywhere together. His father is active in his life, but he travels a lot. So, Riley and I are great buddies.”
While Norman wasn’t especially close to his father growing up, he has treasured memories, like his father teaching him how to tie his shoes and coaching him in Little League the season he hit his first homerun.
“My advice to my son is to create memories with his daughter. Never leave her side. Make sure you’re there for her graduation, prom and to give her away at her wedding. Be someone that no one can replace,” Norman said.
Professionally, he sees many households in which fathers are absent, and he’s had the opportunity to assist in mending broken bridges. “My advice to fathers is just be there. Your children will always remember when you’ve been present. Be your child’s hero. Just be there.”