Investigation Of Police Chief Continues As Residents Speak Out

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The investigation into a police chief allegedly recorded telling an officer how to pull over more drivers continued Friday, as a decision from the city looms on his future.

Bethel Heights Police Chief Don McKinnon has been placed on administrative suspension after a recording surfaced of him speaking to an officer about ticketing procedures, Mayor Jeff Hutcheson said Thursday (Aug. 15).

The administrative action came after police Cpl. Tim Brasuell produced a cellphone recording of the chief urging “dirty pool” tactics in writing more traffic tickets.

Opinions on the matter Friday differed from residents living in and around Bethel Heights.

Stephen Tharp of Lowell said he isn't surprised by the recording because of a traffic stop that occurred earlier this year. He believes he may be a victim of the tactics the chief allegedly told the officer about in the recording.

"The blue lights came on behind me and they pulled me over and he said were you aware you were speeding and I said, no, I wasn't aware that I was speeding," Tharp said.

Tharp said he believes that the police exaggerated the speed he may have been going on his ticket and stated that he may not have been speeding at all. He has been seeking more options to fight the ticket.

"To protect and serve, that's their job," he said. "It's not to make revenue."

A man that lives across from the Bethel Heights Police Department said he has only had good experiences with McKinnon.

Bill Hutchens said that he didn't know much about the case, but has a great relationship with the chief.

"I just can say nothing but good about him, personally," he said.

Brasuell gave the recording to the Benton County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, said prosecutor Van Stone. Stone told 5NEWS on Thursday he will not pursue the case because too many questions exist about the audio.

Stone forwarded to case to the Benton County Sheriff’s Office for further investigation. However, the Sheriff’s Office has decided not to investigate the case.

The Bethel Heights City Council is set to meet Tuesday at 7 p.m. to discuss the police chief’s status with the department, Hutcheson said.

The mayor's office is investigating the case.

In the audio recording, a voice identified by Brasuell as the chief tells the officer ticket numbers are down and gives him advice on how to increase the number of tickets.

“If I’d see a vehicle, I could always find…some reason to stop them,” the audio recording states. “I know I wanna stop that car load of dumb (expletive) in the car…Hell, I’d get behind ‘em in, on the other lane and then I’d start crowding ‘em.”

The chief then seems to say, “Then they’re gonna move over…to the yellow line. (Expletive), there’s the reason to stop ‘em.”

The voice in the recording goes on to say, “It’s kind of dirty pool, but I’ve made two or three arrests out of it.”

The prosecutor received the recording from Brasuell on July 22. Stone recommended Brasuell contact the Arkansas State Police or FBI about the case, according to official documents. Brasuell said he tried to report the case to state police, but no one called him back. He also said he did not want to report it to the FBI because he thought it would take too long, according to the documents.