Editor’s Note: This story is part of an ongoing series profiling the careers of emergency service workers in Pine Bluff, whose work often goes unnoticed.
If there is one case that Pine Bluff Police Sgt. Cassandra Briggs-McAfee can look back on and say it included some of her best work, it would be the June 22, 2015, shooting death of a clerk at the Big Red Convenience Store on East Harding Avenue.
Before being promoted to sergeant earlier this year, Briggs-McAfee was a detective assigned to the swing shift at the department and was the lead investigator in the case.
“Even as a detective, I stopped by the stores on East Harding and checked on the clerks, and Mr. (Hardip) Singh always greeted me with a smiling face,” she said. “He left his family and came over here to work, and they didn’t even give him a chance (to give them the money). They just shot him down, and nobody deserved that.”
“They” are Lorenzo Kelloln, then 23, and Sha’Quille Carter, then 18, who were accused of capital murder and aggravated robbery in connection with Singh’s murder.
“I took it on myself to see that justice was done, and within 36 hours we had the two suspects, the car, the mask and the gun,” she said.
After a five-day trial in September 2016, Kellon was found guilty of capital murder, aggravated robbery and using a firearm in the commission of the crime. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, plus 55 years. Carter pleaded guilty Dec. 12 to reduced charges of second-degree murder and robbery and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
A 2003 graduate of Pine Bluff High School and 2010 graduate of Southeast Arkansas College with a degree in criminal justice, Briggs-McAfee said she entered law enforcement after former Pine Bluff Police Chief Brenda Davis-Jones talked to her youth group at Smith Chapel AME church, where Briggs-McAfee was youth director.
“I knew I had to start somewhere, and law enforcement runs in my family,” she said.
A sister works for the federal prison system, and a brother, Cpl. Marlon Briggs, has worked Highway Patrol with the Arkansas State Police in Jefferson County for a number of years.
Like every newly-hired police officer, Briggs-McAfee started in the Patrol Division, where she stayed for two years before being reassigned to detectives, where she spent four-and-a-half years and received specialized training in homicide investigations at the University of Louisville in Kentucky.
“I had never been involved in law enforcement before, and I loved it,” she said. “I have a passion to work with the community and to help them.”
In June, Briggs-McAfee was promoted, the result, she said, of hard work. With that promotion came a return to the Patrol Division — this time as a supervisor.
“I was a field training officer, and now I’m a field training sergeant,” she said. “It’s an opportunity to be a mentor to the new officers and help them so that one day they can be sergeants. We all need mentors, and I can pat them on the back when they do well and correct them when they don’t do so well.”
After being assigned to the day shift for a while, Briggs-McAfee is now a supervisor on swing shift. She said that “there are a lot of new officers on the shift, and as we move forward, every day there will be something to learn and something new to teach. We’re all like a family, and the biggest part of my job is to see that they all go home safely to their families at the end of the day.”
In addition to her police work, Briggs-McAfee has worked as a substitute teacher in the Pine Bluff School District and is on the board of advisor’s of the Jefferson Area Technical Career Center, where she serves as an advisor in the Criminal Justice Department.
“It’s a chance to try and get kids on the right track,” she said.
The mother of two daughters, Ma’Kiya, 15, and Mya, 14, both students in the Watson Chapel School District, Briggs-McAfee said that her girls “are excited that their mom is a police officer.”
She is working on a degree in criminal justice online with Strayer University and said she has no plans to leave Pine Bluff.
“The Pine Bluff Police Department is a career,” Briggs-McAfee said, “and I plan to retire with the department.”