In his three short years with the Pine Bluff Police Department, Officer Kevin Collins has demonstrated a knack of being in the right place at the right time and doing whatever was necessary to get the job done.

From working in the Patrol Division as a rookie to serving as a mentor to at-risk boys during the department’s two-week Youth Empowerment Camp, where he made a difference in the life of one of the campers, to his current assignment with the Violent Crimes Task Force, where he and his partner, Officer Tamina Oswalt, have been responsible for taking a large number of guns off the street, Collins has done a lot.

Now he can add one more accolade: He was named Officer of the Year for 2017 at the department’s annual Awards Banquet.

“When I took on the challenge of being a police officer, someone extended a lifeline to me,” Collins said in a statement to The Commercial after the banquet. “Some of those whose lines I pulled on are in this room tonight and I truly thank you. As I was pushed into my purpose as a police officer it was either sink or swim. Thank God I chose to swim, so it seems second nature to me and my fellow officers to extend the life line to save others.”

Collins was named Officer of the Year for his actions in July 2017 when he responded to a fire in an apartment at the St. John Alexander Towers Apartments; when he arrived, he noticed smoke coming from under the door of one of the apartments.

“I tried to get it but there was a chair blocking the door,” Collins said. “I kicked the door open and once inside, to my right, saw that the kitchen was full of smoke from a skillet on the stove.”

Collins said he turned off the stove and then saw a woman, who he later learned was 95 years old, lying on the ground.

“She said I can’t walk, so I picked her up and dragged her out to the hallway,” he said. “She had black soot on her nose, and she was barely breathing but she reached out, smiled at me and said ‘thank you.’”

Collins said he stayed with the woman until the ambulance arrived to take her to the hospital, then went to the hospital and stayed there until her family arrived to be sure she was OK.

A native of Pine Bluff and graduate of Pine Bluff High School, Collins formerly worked as a dispatcher at MECA (Metropolitan Emergency Communications Association) and for the Arkansas Department of Corrections before joining the department.

“I always wanted to be a police officer,” he said. “Ever since I was little. I saw law enforcement as a service and something I could be proud of.”

Asked about his current assignment, Collins said Chief Ivan Whitfield has made it a priority to try and get guns off the street, which resulted in the creation of teams of officers who work in plain clothes and unmarked cars.

“If we stop a vehicle for a traffic violation and smell marijuana, that gives us probable cause to search the vehicle,” he said. “Sometimes we luck up and find illegal substances and make felony arrests from that. We also respond to all calls involving violent incidents.”

One of those incidents occurred earlier this year when shots were fired in the area of 42nd Avenue and Main Street.

“We were a block away and the shots sounded like they were coming from that apartment complex,” Collins said. “We arrived quickly and saw a grey Nissan speed off south on Main Street to 52nd Avenue then left (east) on 52nd on the opposite side of the road.”

When the vehicle reached Ohio Street, Collins said it turned back north and he could see the back passenger open the door and could see four males. The vehicle stopped at 38th Avenue and Ohio Street and the four males all got out and ran.

“I chased two of the males and Tamina chased two of the males,” Collins said. “We arrested two of the four.”

Back at the car the suspects abandoned when they fled, police found an AR-15 in the back seat with multiple spent shell casings. They also recovered two other weapons including one with a 100-round drum. The car had also been reported stolen.

“Working like we do we have an advantage because we’re able to approach closer than a marked police car could,” Collins said. “It’s a real team effort because everybody is doing their part,”

He credits his family, mother Dornetta Hobbs, a retired educator, and step-father, Charles Hobbs, a retired Jefferson County Sheriff’s captain, as well as his father, Robert W. Collins, who retired from the railroad after 44 years, for inspiring him and keeping him focused.

“We all work as a family unit,” Collins said.

As for the future, he said that he planned to have a long career with the Police Department, and then maybe get into politics.

“I’m a news junkie,” he said. “I watch CNN daily.”