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Ray Sollars has worn the police uniform for around forty-two years. Sollars joined the Paris Police Department as a Patrolman in 1980. “I was promoted to Acting Lieutenant in 1985, which became Acting Sergeant during a department reorganization in 1986,” Sollars said. “I was approached by Chief H. Eugene Ray in 1987 about creating a Field Training Program, which I did.”
After writing the program, Chief Ray sent Sollars to the University of Illinois Police Training Institute to become the 1st Field Training Officer for the Paris Police Department.
“I requested the instructors to critic the program and offer any suggestions to better it. They returned it with a letter sent to Chief Ray that stated it was a very good training program and they would not hesitate sending another department to me in assisting them in creation of their own training program,” Sollars told us. “The program is still used to field train new officers.”
Sollars also graduated as a certified full time Police Officer in the State of Illinois. “It was hard work, sometimes grueling, but very satisfying,” Sollars said. “It created a strong foundation to grow and build upon for my continuing training.”
Sollars grew up in Clinton, Indiana and graduated from Clinton High School in 1972. He married his wife Bonnie shortly after in 1976. Together they have two daughters, seven grand children, three great grandchildren and are expecting a fourth great grandchild in late May or early June.
“I’ve taught Martial Arts in Paris since 1978, having studied Judo with Mr. Don Bowen, of Marshall, Illinois at the Paris YMCA,” Sollars said. “I then began studying Taekwondo in 1990 with Master Tom Dolan. I then set a club record for earning my black belt under Mr. Dolan in twenty-seven months.”
Ray is also a certified instructor in Pressure Point and Control Tactics, which was created from the ancient Chinese Martial Art of Dim Mak. “This is one thing that I must say is a very profound feeling that I have and have quoted many times in my career.”
In 2007, Mayor Dennis Cary from the Village of Brocton approached Sollars at the recommendation of then Edgar County Sheriff Tim Crippes and Chief Deputy Shane St. Clair about becoming Chief of Police in Brocton and helping to rebuild the Brocton Police Department. “I did so and retired from there from May 1st, 2021 after fourteen years there as Chief,” Sollars said.
In May of 2011, Chief Gary Cash of the Kansas Illinois Police Department asked Ray to accept a part-time position as a Patrolman for the Village of Kansas.
“I worked there in that position until I resigned from there on April 7th, 2022,” Sollars said.
“In April of 2016, then Chief Travis Vice asked me if I would come to Chrisman and work as part-time officer for the City of Chrisman, of which I am still employed.”
Being on the force for so long, Sollars has dealt with many things. One of the biggest misconceptions that Sollars has dealt with is that all the police officers do is drive around looking for traffic violations to enforce and show off their authority.
This is something that Sollars has spent his career trying to change. He’s doing so by being and doing his best at being a community based officer, patrolling and assisting when and wherever possible. By doing this, Sollars can pass onto younger, upcoming Police Officers some words of wisdom and experiences that he has been through.
One of his most humbling experiences was related to him by Callie Baber of Paris. “When she was a college student, she participated in a ride along program provided by the Paris Police Department,” Sollars told us.
“After which she had to write a thesis for her college course. In doing so, she wrote about me and quoted me in that thesis. I have found that to be very honoring and heartfelt.”
Police officers deal with situations that most people would never have to deal with in their everyday life. Situations involving injury and sometimes death.
Being limited in response in times of sorrow and loss is something that Sollars doesn’t like about his job. “Although, as an ordained minister, I can offer kindness and words of God in those times.”
Through his years on the force, Sollars has remained strong in his faith and knows that he’s on the right path that God had chosen for him.
“The book of Timothy tells us that God has a task for our lives, that we, as Christians, must recognize and do our best to fulfill that task. I believe that His task for me is to be a Police Officer and I’m doing my best to fulfill that task,” Sollars said.
“I am able to fulfill the task that God has given me and touch many people’s lives. I’ve met many people throughout my career and, hopefully, have been some positive influence to them.”