Prosecutor Seeks State Police Investigation Into Allegations Against Centerton Police
BENTONVILLE (KFSM) — The Benton County prosecutor has asked Arkansas State Police to investigate allegations that the Centerton Police Department violated the state speed trap law and made questionable purchases via city credit cards.
In a letter sent Friday (May 18) to State Police Col. Bill Bryant, Nathan Smith wrote that an independent criminal investigation was warranted after “multiple allegations of misconduct by officers” at the department.
Smith said a preliminary review has identified two main areas of concern; first, that an officer or officers misused city property or used city credit cards for personal purchases, and secondly, that the department violated the Arkansas Speed Trap Law.
Centerton Mayor Bill Edwards fired Police Chief Cody Harper and Capt. Kris Arthur on Tuesday (May 15). Harper had been put on administrative leave while the department underwent an audit.
“The Benton County Sheriff’s Office and City of Centerton have already completed some initial work on this matter,” Smith said.
“What remains is to have an outside agency review the allegations and conduct interviews of suspects and witnesses.”
Smith declined to provide details about the purchases, but said the state Auditor’s Office has also agreed to assist in the investigation.
State law prevents police from enforcing criminal and traffic laws for the “principle purchase of raising revenue for the municipality and not for the purpose of public safety and welfare,” according to Arkansas Code Annotated 12-8-402.
If found guilty of violating the speed trap law, Smith said prosecutors have the power to sanction the department, which could include barring officers from writing speeding tickets or requiring the fines from those tickets go to local schools.
The Centerton Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 86 said in a statement Thursday (May 17) it was “disgusted” with how the firings were handled, adding that the lodge supports Harper and Arthur.
“(W)e have decided to show full support for our brothers due to the fact that neither has been charged with a crime, neither has been advised of any policy/ethical violations, and one of them was not made aware of any internal or criminal investigation against them,” the lodge’s statement said.
“We have asked our city administration to contact the Arkansas State Police in effort to have a fully transparent investigation, and an unbiased decision.”
The lodge claimed there was conflict of interest in the initial investigation done by the sheriff’s office, saying that the lead investigator’s son was arrested by Centerton police last year.