Former Fort Smith Police Officer Speaks Out On Controversial Issue

FORT SMITH (KFSM) -- With all the controversy happening with the Civil Service Commission and the Fort Smith Police Department, 5NEWS reached out to former Fort Smith Police officers to get their take on what's happening. Some said they don't agree with many things going on in the city and the department.

Around 25 officers at the Fort Smith Department have retired since the beginning of this year, which is about the same time the new police chief, Nathaniel Clark, took office.

Former Fort Smith Police Captain Jarrard Copeland said there are a lot of changes happening at the department right now. According to Copeland, some of them needed to happen, but he doesn't understand a lot of them. One change includes hiring from the outside of the department for high ranking positions, instead of promoting officers who have worked in Fort Smith for years. "Over half of his command staff have left the department," said Copeland. "I heard him [Clark] make the comment this is normal anytime you have a new chief, which is not true. I've worked under six different chiefs of police and don't know of a single person that has left because of a new chief until now."

Copeland said he understands why hiring from the outside would ensure the department gets the best officers possible, but he also said not promoting from within hurts morale for officers who have put in their time.

"The flip side to this is that you have several people who are working at the police department who have been there for years and whose goal is to be promoted within their department. Then to watch someone come from the outside to take that position that you have worked for is crushing to the morale of the department," said Copeland.

Earlier, Chief Clark proposed that the Civil Service Commission allow him to hire sergeant ranking officers from the outside, but that proposal did not get enough support. A formal request has now been made for the commission to reconsider their decision.

Copeland said the former officers are staying involved with this issue because they care about the members. "We’re involved and we’re going to stay involved because we care about the members of the department. Most of us have families that are living here in this area so obviously we have concerns about what is going on here," Copeland stated.