Bike Patrol Officer Marcus Smith, right, stands with his fellow bike patrolmen as they are introduced at a press conference at the Pine Bluff Police Department Tuesday. (Special to The Commercial/William Harvey)
Pine Bluff Police Chief Brenda Davis-Jones introduces the new AmeriCorps cadets during a press conference at the Pine Bluff Police Department Tuesday. (Special to The Commercial/William Harvey)
Mayor Carl A. Redus Jr. speaks to a crowd during a press conference at the Pine Bluff Police Department Tuesday. (Special to The Commercial/William Harvey)
A U.S. Department of Justice COPS (Community Oriented Policing Services) grant earmarked for the acquisition of military veterans has enabled the Pine Bluff Police Department’ to hire four new officers.
Keith Banks, Cody Cummins, Jeremiah Stephens and Joseph Wade have joined the police department. Banks and Cummins are Army veterans while Stephens served in the Army National Guard and Wade was in the Marines. The four were introduced during a news conference at the police department Tuesday.
Also recognized were the second-year class of the department’s AmeriCorps cadets — Colbey Dukes, Marolyn Farris, Navashay Jacobs, Jermicheal Jordon, Kim Kelly, Zalen Reed, Drevonte Rose, Katie Tosca and Sheena Williams.
Mayor Carl A. Redus Jr. introduced the new officers, who are being financed through a COPS program Vets to Cops grant. Under COPS, 629 of 800 newly-hired police posts being funded for the next three years must be filled by veterans who have served at least 180 days of active duty since Sept. 11, 2001.
“This is the first time the 18-year-old COPS program has required cities and counties seeking grants to hire veterans exclusively,” said Redus, who added that Pine Bluff is one of only three Arkansas cities to have received the Vets to Cops grant monies.
“Recent vets face high unemployment rates and this initiative is part of the President Barack Obama administration’s effort to try to help them transition to civilian life,” said the mayor. “We in Pine Bluff are following that lead.”
Eight individuals served in the first AmeriCorps class, helping the police and public alike. During the past year, crime dropped by 12-15 percent in the area where the AmeriCorps cadets directly aided police officers and the public, officials said.
In its first year, the police department’s AmeriCorps program served more than 1,000 children through such police-supported events as a fall festival, AmeriCorps Week and an Easter egg hunt.
AmeriCorps members tutored and mentored 400 youths in after-school, summer and athletic camps, and completed 100 tax returns for low-income and elderly residents.
Public Information Officer Capt. Greg Shapiro introduced officers assigned to the department’s bike patrol — Jarrell Johnson, Marcus Smith, Dustin Summers, Brett Talley and Sgt. Hosea Thompson.
Following the news media conference, Redus and others rode one of the department’s two new T-3 motorized three-wheeler scooter devices which had recently been delivered.