To the People of Pine Bluff …

It is with humility and honor that I return to the Pine Bluff Police Department as your interim chief. Mayor Debe Hollingsworth has articulated a clear new vision for public safety. It is my mission to ensure that vision is made manifest. Despite debilitating intra-departmental challenges, the command staff, supervisors and officers of the Pine Bluff Police Department have accomplished the improbable task of providing law enforcement services during one of the most difficult eras in agency history. We now put that terrible time behind us.

One of the first challenges I will take on is the negative image of your police department and the negative image of the city itself. Some of this misshapened image is due to our crime rate — both actual and perceived. Perception is more difficult to change as it is rooted in trust. Therefore, I pledge to you that every statement issued from the police department or uttered by me will be truthful and reflect fact. I will continue this approach by changing how we tabulate and report crime statistics. We will also mend our bridges with other agencies, community leaders and the press. In short, we will be open and responsive, unless there is a clear public safety need to be circumspect.

We will address crime by identifying specific causes and take appropriate action to stop it. Because our murder rate is directly linked to illegal drug distribution, we will take action on the individuals involved and, thereby, significantly lower our murder rate. This will also have a trickle-down effect on property crimes and quality-of-life issues that impact far more citizens directly. Property crimes will be further addressed by evidence-based directed patrols. The random and seemingly aimless style of policing and crime-reporting is now ended. So too, does our mismanagement of available resources.

Past administrations regularly failed to communicate important information to you — the people we serve. This failure was terribly frustrating to us line officers. Chief among these obscured details is the fact that a small number of serial criminals are responsible for a majority of crimes. Starting today, they are our focus. When they are locked down in prison, we will have little more than the incidental crime common to all communities, instead of the epidemic we now suffer.

We have historically wasted our resources on arrests, investigations and prosecutions of young men of a certain race and age who are also first-time offenders. That practice has caused a very real and all-too-accurate perception of racial disparity, unfairness and ineffectual targeting. That also ends today. As communities all over the nation are discovering, these young men are not serious criminals, nor should we be so anxious to discard them. Their crimes are motivated by addiction, hopelessness and a lack of guidance. It is our duty to do what prison so often fails to do: Return them to the fold mended and ready to contribute.

I want you to know that you have a good police department, staffed with proud professionals. I will work hard to provide them with the proper atmosphere and adequate resources so they can do their jobs. With your support and patience, the crime rate in Pine Bluff will soon begin a downward trend. It is my hope that your trust and confidence will begin a commensurate uptrend.

With the new year, we have a new beginning. I am humbled and honored to serve you.

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Jeff Hubanks is interim chief of police for the Pine Bluff Police Department.