The prospect of moving the Pine Bluff Police Department’s patrol division to inexpensive space offered by The Pines mall has raised the ire of several council members. At least some of those who support housing the division in the asbestos-laden National Guard armory have stuck to that troubling position. At least one erstwhile armory supporter has changed his tune: Alderman Steven Mays.
Mays was an original sponsor of the proposed move to the armory, but when the enabling legislation received a veto by Mayor Debe Hollingsworth, Mays relented. We applaud his change of heart.
Too often in politics, any reconsideration — even in those couched in new pivotal facts — is maligned as being wishy-washy. In the present case, we’d like to think Mays now understands the folly of the armory move. Concomitantly, it appears he understands the broader economic implications of The Pines mall offer.
Mays told a Commercial reporter that a police presence at The Pines could help in bringing in new stores and new jobs.
“We can all get together on this and figure out what’s best for helping our city to move forward,” he said. “I think we can make a decision that will be good for everyone.”
It’s refreshing to even hear members of the local government openly discuss public policy based on the greatest good… let alone actual economic benefit. To that point, we believe that a more consistent police presence in the area would send a positive signal to potential mall occupants and further the commercial interests of those already there.
While Mays’ counterpart on the council, Alderwoman Thelma Walker, clings to the armory idea, she also voiced metered support for housing police at the mall,.
“I think people are under a misconception on the idea of having the patrol division at the mall,” Walker said. “Those officers won’t be at the mall. They’re going to be out on patrol elsewhere. I’m not against some officers being at the mall, but I think putting the whole patrol division there would be wrong.”
Walker’s observation should be given heed by others on the council. While patrol officers muster at the beginning of their shift and file some paperwork at the patrol station, they spend the vast majority of their workday out among the people.
In this framing, the more relevant question becomes whether the mall provides the best facility to support those uses. It is newer, more accessible and arguably safer. Then there’s the three years of practically free rent.
As to Walker’s suggestion that “putting the whole division” would be “wrong,” there are practical reasons why her reasoning is flawed. In the first instance, wherever the patrol division is housed, it has to be housed as one unit. To do otherwise would introduce a managerial nightmare. Hopefully, Mays and his fellow council members also understand this necessity.
While there will be many more instances requiring olive branches, mended fences and reasoned compromise, we’re happy that Mays has made this small overture. This kind of course change is what we expect when our leaders are confronted with facts that run counter to their initial positions. We’ve tried it the other way. The results of that approach are self-evident.