As homecoming activities for the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff kick into high gear, Pine Bluff Police Chief Ivan Whitfield on Wednesday issued a warning about illegal parties.
“We've received information about a party at the Pines Mall, and we're trying to research and find out who is sponsoring it,” Whitfield said at a meeting of the city council's Public Safety Committee.
He said the initial word was that the sponsor was the “same gentleman” who sponsored the party at the Harbor Oaks Golf Club in September that resulted in an officer-involved shooting and the death of a man from Little Rock.
“Every party is not a good party, and we're going to notify students that officers will be checking everybody,” Whitfield said.
Whitfield said that if the sponsor is the same person who was responsible for the party at Harbor Oaks, off-duty police officers will not be providing security. Asked about the possibility of banning that particular person, who was not named, Whitfield said he could not, but encouraged students at the university and area high schools “to make sure your ticket is right because if it is not a sanctioned party, we will shut it down.”
“We want every body to have a good time but we also want them to be safe,” Whitfield said.
He said the department will be beefing up security for homecoming and on Saturday will turn University Drive into a one-way street after the football game, which will require officers to be stationed at every intersection along the way. On another subject, Whitfield said he has completed work on a recommended pay scale for police officers but wanted to let Mayor Shirley Washington look at it first before presenting it to the committee and full city council.
He said one of the things he looked at was the development of a steady revenue stream, mentioning that the department currently has three school resource officers, and is looking at four next year, and the school districts pay the department about $200,000 a year.
“We don't know what Go Forward Pine Bluff is going to do and that tax increase will be for only seven years so we're looking at setting that $200,000 to use for salaries,” he said.
Whitfield said that since he last spoke to the committee in September, three officers have quit, including one who had been with the department only eight months.
“The problem is that the pay for an officer who has been on the job for 5 years and on the job for 20 years is so close that there is no incentive to stay,” he said.
In the case of the officer who had been on the job only eight months, Whitfield said that officer went to another department and under state law, Pine Bluff can and did ask the officers new department to reimburse the city for the officer's training. That law applies to officers who change departments within 18 months.
“They sent me a letter this week saying they would,” Whitfield said, adding that the city will receive about $11,000.