While Arkansas State Troopers who are assigned to highway patrol get a lot of attention, those assigned to the Criminal Investigations branch don’t, and that suits their boss just fine.
“We sort of fly under the radar,” said Capt. Mark Hollingsworth, a more than 30-year veteran of the state police. Before that, he served as a sheriff’s deputy in Pulaski County under former Sheriff Tommy Robinson.
Hollingsworth said in those days, Robinson would put three deputies in a car, drive to a liquor store and put one deputy out to go into the store with a shotgun and hide in a cooler in the event of an attempted robbery.
Hollingsworth was the guest speaker at a recent Pine Bluff Rotary Club meeting at the Pine Bluff Country Club.
He said the state police trace their origin to 1935, when 13 officers, who were then called Rangers, were sworn in. One of those 13 was designated as the plain clothes detective.
The Highway Patrol Division is divided into 12 troops made up of several counties. For example, Troop E, which is based in Pine Bluff, includes Jefferson, Lincoln, Arkansas and Desha counties. The Criminal Investigations Division is composed of six companies, which cover two troops each. Company B, which is based mostly in Jefferson County, covers this area.
Hollingsworth said the Criminal Investigations Division has 70 special agents and 23 supervisors to cover all 75 counties in the state, and they respond to all types of incidents, including death investigations, especially those that occur while the victims are in custody or being detained, either in jail or in prison.
“We also get a lot of stuff that goes on at the prisons,” he said.
Another area is the investigation of officer-involved shootings. Hollingsworth said agents have investigated “18 or 19 since the first of the year.” Two of those involved requests from Prosecuting Attorney S. Kyle Hunter for agents to investigate shootings involving Pine Bluff Police officers in May.
Hollingsworth said that recently, agents have gotten a lot more involved in collecting evidence from cyber crimes, such as analyzing and exporting items from cell phones.
“We seldom go into a house where there is not a lot of electronic evidence because people now live on their cell phones,” he said.
Hollingsworth described special agents as “generalists,” meaning that they are capable of investigating a variety of crimes, ranging from homicide to robberies to rapes. And while the larger departments don’t call on the state police as much, they get a lot of requests from smaller police and sheriff’s departments.
“We don’t do a lot of property type crimes, but we can help local agencies if they ask,” he said.