When applications closed on Jan. 1, the Little Rock Police Department had 57 applicants to be the next chief, according to applications the city released.
Among the applicants for the top position are current and former police chiefs and assistant chiefs from across the country, a current deputy assistant director for the FBI and a former chief of the Border Patrol, according to applications submitted to the city.
The applications opened in mid-November after former Chief Kenton Buckner announced he had taken on a new job as police chief in Syracuse, N.Y.
Also in mid-November, City Manager Bruce Moore said Little Rock’s three assistant chiefs under Buckner’s leadership — Alice Fulk, Hayward Finks and Wayne Bewley — would serve as the interim chief on a rotating basis until a new chief is hired, a process Moore estimated would take about three months.
The new police chief — with a salary of $142,663 and command of almost 600 employees — will oversee the department’s $75 million budget, which is almost half of the city’s annual budget of $200 million.
Two of the city’s assistant chiefs — Fink and Fulk — have applied for the position. Bewley said in December that he did not intend to apply.
The number of applicants is just shy of the 59 people who applied for the position in 2014, according to previous reports.
Among the applicants are 11 from Arkansas. Among those are seven from Little Rock, including Finks and Fulk. Trumann Police Chief Chadwick Henson, Arkansas State Police Troop A commander Capt. Keith Eremea and Searcy assistant police chief Steve Taylor are among the Arkansas candidates.
Jefferey J. Fitzpatrick, chief deputy of the Saline County sheriff’s office, said he’s been interested in leading a department in Arkansas’ capital city since his retirement from a 27-year career in the Drug Enforcement Administration.
“I fell in l love with the state many, many years ago,” he said.
Fitzpatrick first lived in Arkansas as a young DEA agent in 1988 before he was transferred overseas to positions in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but said he knew he wanted to come back to the state.
“I’ve spent my career being very good at building relationships,” Fitzpatrick said. “I’ve worked locally, nationally and internationally building relationships and trust. It’s easy to build those relationships with the community when you’re transparent and when you hold everyone around you accountable.”
Fitzpatrick returned to Arkansas in early 2015 to become the chief deputy in Saline County, just two years after the former sheriff resigned in the midst of a federal wire-fraud investigation. The former sheriff, Bruce Pennington, was later sentenced to one year in prison because of the charges.
“You can imagine coming to a program like this where you have very little trust in the community,” Fitzpatrick said. “There was an urgency to rebuild that trust in the community and make them believe again in the sheriff’s office and the services we provide.”
Fitzpatrick said his extensive relationships with both local, state and federal law enforcement agencies would benefit the city, were he to become the new police chief.
“In the end, you cannot fix the problems in Little Rock, Arkansas, in a unilateral way,” he said. “It has got to be done in a cooperative and, more importantly, collaborative way. You have to combine your resources to address the crime and that we see in Little Rock. I have spent years crafting those relationships.”
Also applying within the state is Derrick Jackson, a detective in the criminal investigations division of the Maumelle Police Department. Jackson said he believed his youth and intimate understanding of the Little Rock community could be a benefit to the city.
“The biggest problem I see right now is that the department needs to become one,” Jackson said. “That’s the biggest issue right now. The department is divided, and that’s been an ongoing issue. It’ll be a difficult task to overcome, but the department is not functioning as one.”
Jackson said before the department can ever hope to unify divisions within the city, it must first mend the relationships among officers.
The vast majority of applicants, however, come from outside the state, like detective Yuseff Hamm, an 18-year veteran of the New York City Police Department.
“The dynamics of the [Little Rock] community, the innovativeness of the community — I really like that,” Hamm said. “There are things that can be done there, and I can build on the foundation that’s already there. I love policing. I love the community aspect of it, and I love catching the bad guys.”
Hamm said he’s applied and been selected as a finalist in other positions, but they haven’t felt like the right fit yet. With Little Rock, Hamm said he feels he could use his experience as a New York City officer to make a difference.
“I have a positive feeling about the Little Rock department,” Hamm said, adding that he is a strong advocate for community policing.
“The more we have our community involved in policing, the easier policing is. … We have to fight barriers to get people to understand we need the police, so the police can be effective in their communities.”
David Scott Brunner, current deputy assistant director for the FBI; Mark Morgan, a former chief of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency; and Eric Carter, current deputy chief of the Chicago Police Department, all have submitted applications to lead the Little Rock department.
Brunner and Morgan did not return phone calls to their listed contacts Thursday, and Carter declined to comment for this article.
Lt. Col. Eddie B. Bass, current assistant commander of the Memphis Police Department, said the problems facing Memphis and Little Rock are in many ways similar.
The positive results he’s seen in the Mississippi River city, he said, could fit “like a missing piece to a puzzle” in Little Rock.
“I believe the citizens and the business community could be pleased with my initiatives,” said Bass, who has worked in the Memphis department for more than 35 years. “Little Rock seems to me to be a city that’s on the move. There’s going to be a paradigm shift there, and I want to be a part of it. I’ve got my fingers crossed.”
Robert Jones, current warden of Carroll County Correctional Institution in Carrollton, Ga., said he’s worked in almost every facet of the law enforcement profession — from his years as a DEA task force officer, to being a detective to being a patrolman.
Jones, who has spent more than 20 years in law enforcement, was the chief of police in Adairsville, Ga., where he said his administration reduced crime by more than 40 percent during his tenure.
“It was nothing I did by myself, it was the hardworking men and women of the department,” he said. “It’s really about picking the right individual to lead. … You don’t want somebody to pick you just because you look good on paper. There’s always that fit. I hope Little Rock makes the right choice, even if it’s not me.”
Print Headline: 57 applicants seek Little Rock police chief job