Memorandum for: Arkansas’s Next Governor
Memorandum for: Arkansas’s Next Governor
Date: Election Eve
Subject: Arkansas State Police Commission
You have not asked for this memo and quite probably have no time to read it, inasmuch as you are still on the hustings, still in the hunt, trying to reach those dwindling few undecided voters while at the same time pushing those inclined to your candidacy to get to the polls. By midnight Tuesday, however, you might take a moment to examine the recommendations contained herein. Because by 8 a.m. Wednesday you will be approached (indeed, if you already have not been) by a supporter, or someone who claims to be a supporter, or suggests he or she might be a supporter in 2018, who hopes you will consider him or her for a certain appointment.
You are about to discover what preceding chief executives of Arkansas have learned, invariably to their amazement: that such patronage plums as the Highway, Game and Fish and Public Service Commissions, as well as the state Board of Education and the boards of post-secondary campuses — they are not nearly as coveted as a seat on the Arkansas State Police Commission.
Few appointed panels have as much demonstrated potential as the ASP Commission for bringing chaos to the agencies they ostensibly oversee, either by undercutting the professional staff (or attempting to) or meddling (or attempting to) in administrative matters that are the proper province of the director you appoint. For you the result can be annoying at a minimum and quite possibly profoundly embarrassing.
Herewith, some recommendations as your tenure begins:
1. Under no circumstances should you appoint anyone to the State Police Commission who asks to be appointed to the State Police Commission.
2. Require any prospective commissioner to undergo a briefing on the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act and the statutes which govern the State Police, especially those defining the commission’s duties and powers. No appointment should be made until the prospective commissioner delivers to the governor, the state attorney general and the ASP general counsel a signed and notarized acknowledgement that said statutes have been read and are understood.
3. Issue an executive order prohibiting the issuance of badges to State Police commissioners, who have no need of them since they have no more power of arrest than the young lady taking orders at a fast-food drive-up window. In the same order or in a separate memo — and the order or memo should be made public — declare that, in the interest of better law enforcement, sitting commissioners should immediately surrender their badges to the nearest ASP troop command post or to ASP headquarters.
4. Issue a second executive order, this one directing that no future ASP commissioner will be equipped with a State Police radio. As with badges, sitting commissioners should be expected to turn in their police radios, which are not emblems of privilege but operational tools, the use of which should be restricted to those with operational responsibilities. To those commissioners who would argue that monitoring ASP radio transmissions are a means of reviewing the policies they establish, suggest scanners. List the appropriate frequencies and provide directions to the nearest Radio Shack.
5. Prohibit the purchase by any ASP commissioner of any item, particularly law enforcement equipment and especially firearms, using any State Police discount or bulk order arrangement.
6. Make clear to each potential commissioner that the State Police commander was appointed by you and ultimately reports to you.
7. To reinforce Item 3 make clear that that ASP commissioners are responsible only for policy and promotion matters and not administrative affairs, and that they are not entitled to and shall not receive information regarding pending or on-going criminal investigations.
8. Should any of the above recommendations strike you as peculiar or unnecessary, by all means spend a few minutes by phone with any former ASP commander. On second thought, plan on an hour.
We would offer yet another proposal should your electoral mandate prove broader than would seem likely, and the General Assembly be induced to take LSD prior to considering the necessary legislation. Abolish the existing system by which four ASP commissioners are appointed from congressional districts and the remaining three "at-large." Replace it with appointees from seven districts drawn on the basis of population; none of the seven commissioners could represent the district in which they reside nor an adjoining district. Horse trading on personnel matters almost certainly would intensify but better that than the territorial prerogatives that commissioners now assert.
Sir, you have a State Police that is the equal of or superior to those of many states.
It can be made better still. Good luck.
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Steve Barnes is a native of Pine Bluff and the host of Arkansas Week on AETN.