Locking in a Police Career

Alumnus Bob Lausten, Chief of the La Vista Police Department.
La Vista (NE) Police Chief Bob Lausten

Police Chief Bob Lausten, a SHSU graduate and 30 year law enforcement veteran, still uses the padlock from his police academy class. Every time he looks at it, he remembers the core lessons that come with the job.

“I think about those same core values that I was taught: Watch your back. Treat people with dignity. Be firm but fair,” said Lausten.

Lausten began his career as a Los Angeles School District police officer.
Lausten began his career as a Los Angeles School District police officer.
It has been a long time – and an interesting journey – since Lausten left Sam Houston State University in December 1983, returning to his native Omaha, NE., where the temperature didn’t get above zero for 10 days. It was then he decided to visit relatives in Los Angeles – and begin a career journey that eventually would bring him back home.

Responding to a brochure left at his college in Omaha, Lausten came to SHSU in his second semester, working his way through school as a correctional officer on the Ellis Unit at the then Texas Department of Corrections. During more than a year working the swing shift from 1:45 to 9:45 p.m., he witnessed eight murders on the cell blocks and began to understand the criminal mind.

Lausten is a graduate of the FBI National Academy
Lausten is a graduate of the FBI National Academy.
“I learned that people from all walks of life will do what they can to get ahead,” said Lausten. “Working in corrections was a benefit to me because it gave you an idea of who you will be working with. I worked for six months on Death Row, and it was an eye-opening experience. When I read the case files of what these guys had done, you began to see how evil people can be.”

After graduation and a brief stint in Omaha, Lausten landed a job with the Los Angeles School District Police. He was trained through the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office and started his career at Crenshaw High School, a violent inner city school plagued by gangs in South Central Los Angeles. It was very different environment from Omaha and Huntsville, and there he learned the best – and the worst – of police practices.

In 1990, after having three children in just 18 months – and facing $1,400 in monthly payments for a two bedroom condo – Lausten and his wife decided to go home to Omaha. He took a job in the suburb of La Vista, a community of 20,000, and has been there ever since. He taught the DARE program for five years and then made his way up the department ladder, becoming chief in 2002.

Chief Lausten met President George W. BushLausten met President George W. Bush. La Vista is the fastest growing city in the fastest growing county in Nebraska. Like many growth areas, it faces traffic woes, but enjoys a low crime rate. Most police work focuses on quality of life issues. With a supportive city council, Lausten introduced many innovative programs in the community, including a unit for internet crimes against children, an honor guard, and a new police and fire station.

But Lausten is most proud of the legacy he has developed in the department. In 2002, he introduced a succession plan among his rank and file, and many of the leaders have grown successfully into their jobs.
Lausten still remembers his time at Sam Houston State University, including such faculty as Drs. Wayland D. Pilcher and Doug Moore, and keeps in touch with a few of his fellow classmates. He urged today’s student to expose themselves to many different experiences to get a job in the field. His department includes officers from the military, college, corrections and security.

Chief Lausten meets with officers.
Chief Lausten promotes succession planning among his officers.
“Life skills and experience are huge when you are looking for a job,” said Lausten. “One of the big things is you can’t stay in a box. Expose yourself to lots of different things.”

Ironically, Lausten recently brought a shirt from SHSU in honor of the 30th anniversary of his graduation. He also reconnected with one of his former classmates just two weeks ago. Then he got the call to profile his story. Even after 30 years, Lausten remains connected to his alma mater.

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