White Hall Police Chief Richard Wingard believes in hiring experienced, certified police officers. It’s an investment that pays off, he emphasizes, for the community.
Wingard reenforced the point a week ago before the city’s aldermen when it was announced that Detective Mark Bradley had been promoted to the rank of detective sergeant.
Wingard explained to the aldermen that Bradley had a good working relationship with personnel of the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department and the Pine Bluff Police Department, a crucial requirement for a criminal investigator.
Bradley worked as a criminal investigator with the sheriff’s department from 1988 to 2003, leaving to accept a post in internal affairs with the Pine Bluff department through 2010, when he was commissioned by the White Hall department.
An internal affairs investigator conducts background checks on police officer candidates and investigates complaints made about police officers.
“Both Paul (Brown, assistant police chief) and Noel (Foster, former White Hall police chief and now mayor) worked with him at the sheriff’s department, so they were familiar with Mark,” said Wingard.
“It was a win-win situation for us with his experience,” added Wingard.
Most of the officers hired by Foster and Wingard have been certified as police officers by the state. Wingard he can count only two current officers who were not certified when they were hired.
Non-certified full-time officers must attend a 12-week training course at the Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy at East Camden and must be paid during the three-months of classes.
Unlike a number of municipal police agencies, White Hall does not require new officers to have an associate degree from a recognized college.
“You can’t teach street experience,” Wingard said as a way of explanation. He said three recent hires by the department have more than 60 years experience.
The White Hall department’s entry level salary “is close” to entry level paid at Pine Bluff, and the city pays a $500 annual incentive up to $5,000 for officers who remain on the force. The officers can also earn additional pay for college hours and for up to five certified training levels.
“It has worked out well for us” with the incentives for longevity, training and college hours added to the base salary, said Wingard. “It means were are not constantly recruiting good caliber people to provide police services.”