Fired Police Chief Speaks Out After Secret Recording Surfaces

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Bethel Heights Police Chief Don McKinnon said Monday (Aug. 19) he has been fired by the mayor over statements urging an officer to make more traffic stops, but said he expects to be absolved of any wrongdoing.

"I know that they'll believe what I have to say," McKinnon said.

The Bethel Heights City Council is set to meet Tuesday at 7 p.m. to discuss the issue.

McKinnon told 5NEWS on Monday he is "deeply saddened by the allegations."

"I do not agree with nor do I support the actions taken by the mayor," McKinnon said in a statement to 5NEWS. "I have spent 17 years of my life serving the community of Bethel Heights, and never once during that time has my integrity been called into question.

"It is my belief that the audio evidence presented against me was collected from several, separate conversations and was then intentionally edited in a way that confuses the context of each statement," he added. "I am confident a full investigation into this matter will absolve me of any wrongdoing whatsoever."

McKinnon was placed on administrative suspension after a recording surfaced of him speaking to an officer about ticketing procedures, Mayor Jeff Hutcheson said on Aug. 15.

McKinnon told 5NEWS the mayor fired him the next day.

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

Brasuell gave the recording to the Benton County Prosecuting Attorney Van Stone, but Stone told 5NEWS he will not pursue the case because too many questions exist about the audio.

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

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 want to 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.”

McKinnon responded, ""I think people that know me, know that I'm a man of integrity, of accomplishment and pride versus what he has secretly done, instead to bring it to my attention saying 'Chief we got issues with this.'"

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.