The Task Force to Advance the State of Law Enforcement in Arkansas submitted its report to me last week, and today I’d like to talk about some of the action items the members recommended.
I created the task force in June in the midst of the civil unrest and violence across the country after the death of George Floyd. After listening to the concerns of community activists, I decided that as a state, we should pause and assess the state of law enforcement in Arkansas. So I invited law-enforcement officers, elected officials, and community activists to participate in the project.
Fred Weatherspoon, deputy director of the Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy, chaired the committee. Jami Cook, Secretary of the Department of Public Safety, was vice chair.
The members of the task force surveyed a broad base of citizens and studied best practices in other states and agencies. The report is filled with substantive proposals, and it addresses the concerns of both citizens and law-enforcement officers.
The task force recommends that we increase salaries to the median average in a community, and that we reduced the number of years required to retire. The idea is to recruit and retain top quality police officers.
The task force also recommended additions to several laws with the aim of increasing accountability. For instance, a community that wants to start a police department or reactivate one must register with the Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Training and meet all of the commission’s requirements.
Another proposal would require every department to employ a full-time chief. This recommendation is critical for proper supervision and accountability.
Another proposal is that a department must limit the number of part-time officers to two for every full-time officer. Part-time officers have more than 100 hours of training, but they don’t train at the police academy. This requirement would limit to two the number of officers with less training who are supervised by a fully trained officer.
The task force also strengthened its requirements for reporting disciplinary action to the commission. It is important that anytime an officer resigns or is discharged, and the termination is because of excessive force or dishonesty or deceit, that this information be reported to the commission. That is an important recommendation.
My vision for this task force was to ensure that we are providing our law-enforcement agencies with the equipment, guidance and training, support, and compensation, that will allow them to perform their jobs at the highest level. I also want to help sharpen the communication skills that will lead to even better relations and more trust between officers and the people in the communities they serve.
Police officers put their lives on the line every time they go to work. I want to reduce the risk as much as possible. I fully support their work. Police officers and the rule of law are essential for public safety and our well-being. The task force’s recommendations give us the chance to create better communities for everyone and give us an opportunity to show respect and admiration to our officers.