Prosecutor: Cave Springs PD Chief Under Investigation For Falsifying Sheriff Commissions
CAVE SPRINGS (KFSM) — The Benton County prosecutor requested Wednesday (Aug. 24) that Arkansas State Police take up the investigation into the unauthorized issuance of deputy sheriff commissions to several police officers at the Cave Springs Police Department.
In a letter to Col. Bill Bryant, Director of ASP, prosecutor Nathan Smith writes that Cave Springs Police Chief Joe Powell may have tampered with public records, which is a felony.
Powell was suspended with pay over the weekend after Cave Springs Mayor Travis Lee said he received information Aug. 19 regarding Powell’s conduct.
As is the case across the rest of the state, the Benton County sheriff issues commissions to officers who work for other law enforcement agencies in Benton County so they have county jurisdiction when needed, Smith’s letter states. The commissions are issued at the discretion of the sheriff, who in this case is Meyer Gilbert. The sheriff then drafts a document appointing a certain person to be commissioned as a deputy sheriff. The appointee has to sign the document and give his or her oath before a public official.
Following the oath, the documents is filed with the Benton County Circuit Clerk and commission cards are issued by the sheriff’s office to authorize the appointed officer to exercise county jurisdiction, according to Smith’s letter.
On Aug. 17, Sheriff Gilbert learned several unauthorized appointment forms had been presented at the sheriff’s office to obtain deputy sheriff commission cards, the letter states. The appointment forms authorized commissions for Cave Springs officers Nathan Coy, Gary Grews, Jeff Ward and Scott Hammersla, according to the letter.
The officers told sheriff’s office staff that Powell had given them the forms, but Gilbert said he had not issued commissions to these officers, the letter states. After examining the documents, the sheriff noticed the forms appeared to be copies of authorized appointment forms he had issued, but another officer’s name had been inserted into each document, according to the letter. The appointment forms had been filed with the Benton County Circuit Clerk.
In the letter, Smith writes that he requesting assistance from ASP because he does not believe it is wise for the sheriff’s office to conduct an investigation that involves several witnesses from the sheriff’s office, including the sheriff himself.
Lee told 5NEWS on Sunday that he is conducting his own internal investigation into the matter.