Editor’s Note: This story is part of an ongoing series showcasing police officers and the work they do, which often goes unrecognized.
After 12 years in the Army, Pine Bluff Police Detective Keith Banks decided he was ready for a career change, and he hasn’t regretted the decision one bit.
“I was tired of going to war,” said Banks, who served overseas for 39 months, including tours in Iraq, Afghanistan and in Cuba.
“Cuba was fun,” he said. “We worked two days on and two days off, and I learned to scuba dive.”
In the Army, Banks was a military policeman, so the transition to civilian policeman was a natural.
He was hired by Pine Bluff in 2012 under a federal grant to employ veterans, with the grant covering salaries for three years and the city being obligated to pay an additional year.
“There were four of us hired under that grant, and I’m the only one left,” Banks said.
After being hired, he was sent to the Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy for the second time. He said he had attended the Academy in 1996 for a job in Malvern but went back to the military instead and stayed out of law enforcement too long so he had to go the second time.
After graduating, Banks, like all new officers, was assigned to the Patrol Division, where he worked the 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift and worked with training officers like now-Sgt. Lynn Wright, former officer Marty Harrision and retired Lt. Joe Paul Harrell.
After working in the Patrol Division for a year-and-a-half, he was reassigned to the bicycle patrol, where he stayed for a year before moving to detectives.
“I loved the bikes,” Banks said. “We were actually getting paid to work out and you could interact with people a lot more than you could when you were in a car because you could move slower on the streets.”
He was assigned to the Dollarway area and said the people in those neighborhoods “really treated us well.”
Banks has been assigned to the Detective Division for more than two years and said in that time, he has worked everything but drugs.
“There’s a lot expected of us because we’re somewhat independent and have less supervision than patrol officers,” he said.
The first homicide he worked was in May 2016 when Andre Eason, 26, was shot after several people were robbed at a house in the 1900 block of S. Poplar Street. Two suspects in that robbery are scheduled for trial in the near future.
“I didn’t know what to expect but it was my responsibility,” Banks said. “I tried to be as meticulous as I could be with it.”
He said he found out later that a neighbor of his had had a close relationship with the victim of the shooting and said the case became more personal.
“It was not just some faceless victim anymore,” Banks said.
He said his next goal is to get promoted and be a supervisor, preferably still in detectives.
“I love what I do,” Banks said.