Jefferson County Judge Dutch King said Tuesday that “Pine Bluff has been a better place and will be a better place again.”
Speaking at the monthly Coffee with the Chiefs progam sponsored by Interested Citizens for Voter Registration, King said “the things that happened in Pine Bluff didn’t just happen. All of us share the blame.
“This used to be the best place in the world to live and work and we can get it back,” he said. “We can get it done.”
King, who is a former Pine Bluff alderman and mayor, is serving his first two-year term as county judge and said “city government and county government are as different as daylight and dark.
“I never dreamed about being county judge and I owe the people of Pine Bluff and Jefferson County a debt of gratitude,” King said, explaining that he had been elected three different times, once to the city council, once as mayor of Pine Bluff, and the third time as county judge, and said next to the birth of his three children, being elected to those offices was “the best thing that ever happened to him.
“It’s a shame if we don’t all come together,” he said. “We’ve got to spend less, serve better and be accountable.”
Following up on a proposed city ordinance that would require the police department to relocate their Patrol Division to the old National Guard Armory on North Myrtle Street, ICVR Executive Director the Rev. Jesse Turner asked Interim Police Chief Jeff Hubanks what effect that move would have on the Joe Thomas Public Safety building downtown, where the police administrative offices are located.
“That’s a political discussion that’s way above my pay grade,” Hubanks said, adding that he would reserve comments until something happened.
Hubanks, however, said he was “passionate about re-mediating the Joe Thomas building.”
He said late uncle, Norman Young, hired Thomas as a patrolman, and when Hubanks was hired, he worked for Thomas.
“He was my guide on how to be a good police officer and sitting in that same office he sat in, I feel the weight of wanting to make that building sparkle,” Hubanks said, explaining that the building currently appears dingy in spots.
Asked if he would prefer moving the Patrol Division to the Pines Mall, as Mayor Debe Hollingsworth suggested during a meeting of the city council’s Public Safety Committee, Hubanks said “at this point I would be out of line to say I would prefer one over another.
“I’ll go where I’m ordered to go,” he said.
Hubanks also recognized two officers for their performance of duty, and Assistant Chief Ivan Whitfield recognized two more with the Monthly Eyes and Ears Award, presented by ICVR.
Those recognized by Hubanks were Officer Christina Kendrick and Sgt. Marcus Smith, while Whitfield recognized Officers Megan Hardy and Brandy Ashcraft.
Hubanks said Kendrick was off-duty on May 28 at a convenience store at West 28th Avenue and Hazel Street when she saw a young man acting suspiciously and watched until the young man snatched the purse from a customer who had left the store. Kendrick apprehended him on the south side of the building.
Regarding Smith, Hubanks said he responded to a residence on West 29th Avenue where a female was threatening suicide and was holding a large knife to her neck. By remaining calm and talking to the woman, Hubanks said Smith made a connection with her and talked her into putting down the knife down without anyone being injured.
Hardy and Ashcraft were recognized for their actions following a possible barricaded suspect in early May that resulted in the SWAT team being called out.
Whitfield said Hubanks created the department’s SWAT team a number of years ago and went on that call out with the current team.
At the scene, Hardy and Ashcraft, who were wearing vests, noticed that Hubanks was not and took a position in front of him, Whitfield said.
“You can’t train officers to do something like that,” he said. ‘“It was just instinct on their parts.”