Top cop needs a thicker skin


A representative of the Police Benevolent Association, which represents a majority of Pine Bluff’s police officers, told the city’s aldermen Monday that Police Chief Brenda Davis-Jones does not have the confidence of the officers to head up the police agency.

The chapter, following a no-confidence vote on Feb. 23, cited Davis-Jones’ “inconsistent disciplinary practices and inability to follow department procedure consistently.”

Davis-Jones left after the City Council’s Public Safety Committee meeting and did not return for the full council meeting. She did not return a message left on her city cell phone seeking comment.

Therein lies part of the problem. The chief is a key department head Ducking the issue is not a sign of leadership. Davis-Jones should have remained and answered the complaints.

Disciplinary actions taken by the chief in recent months have been reversed or significantly altered several times. Because of all the unnecessary drama, the council is currently considering proposed ordinances that would establish citizen review panels or reinstate the Civil Service Commission. To remain at the helm of the department, Davis-Jones must address the issues head-on, not leave the discussion.

Homegrown

Southeast Arkansas was well represented before the U.S. Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee Wednesday in Washington at a hearing focusing on the increased demand for locally grown food.

Jody Hardin, a fifth-generation farmer from Grady, noted that despite the growing interest in “locally grown” produce, most Arkansas school children aren’t getting their lunchtime vegetables from local farmers.

Hardin said the growers have not been able “to tap the school market.”

While farmers markets are booming in Arkansas and demand is rising for locally grown produce, Hardin noted hurdles exist for farmers to reach the untapped markets. The biggest obstacle for small farmers is the lack of regional aggregating and processing facilities where farmers can process and store their produce for schools or other large-scale purchasers.

Arkansas farmers harvest most of their vegetables in the summer when schools are out and the cafeterias are closed, he explained. The produce needs to be flash frozen and stored to be available during school days.

Hardin said “a little seed money” from Washington is needed, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture does not have a grant program that fits the bill.

The logical choice would involve Rural Development grants, but the money must be spent in “rural” areas only — away from larger markets.

Giving the USDA more flexibility to focus on the “impact” on rural communities of such investments would be a step in the right direction.

While breaking into the school lunch market has been a struggle, a 2009 USDA grant was critical in helping to propel Arkansas farmers markets.

The promotional grant helped them create food festivals that have turned his farmers market in North Little Rock into a booming marketplace.

A hand up instead of a handout is still the best idea.

Start swatting

Consumers may want to stock up on mosquito spray before the product disappears from the shelves.

Entomologists, who study insects, indicate the current weather conditions are causing mosquitoes to survive and flourish. Normally in winter the mosquito population is reduced by cold weather and freezes, but this has been a mild winter.

The pests can rebound quickly, depending on rainfall and the amount of standing water. Recent rains only contribute to the problem.

Perhaps it was no accident that the Entomological Society of America met in Little Rock on Sunday to discuss how the weather is affecting the insect population.