Leader Blues

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

TOP STORY >>Beebe mayor fires police chief

By JOAN MCCOY
Leader staff writer

Beebe Mayor Mike Robertson fired his police chief Sunday after learning he had fixed an arrest warrant so that a parolee wanted on drug charges would not be picked up.

The Beebe City Council learned about the firing of Don Inns, who became chief of police under former Mayor Donald Ward, during a special council meeting Monday. The council discussed the details of Inns dismissal during executive session, but the mayor released a prepared statement Tuesday explaining his decision to fire Inns. Robertson said he also would send a letter to the police standards office in Little Rock that would be available to any agency considering hiring Inns.

Inns did not attend the meeting to defend himself and could not be reached for comment later. He was fired following the Sunday arrest of Brian Chappell, 40, whose warrant on misdemeanor drug charges had been fixed. Chappell is a parolee who has been convicted of murder and arson. The Leader learned Chappell’s identity from a radio log that was viewed under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act. In his prepared statement, Robertson referred to Chappell as “the subject.”

The warrant for Chappell’s arrest was issued on Sept. 8, 2006 and had to be served within one year from that date or be voided.

On Sept. 9, the warrant was entered into the Arkansas Crime Information Center, the computer that links all law enforcement agencies in the state. On Sept. 22, a dispatcher cleared the warrant from ACIC without the warrant being served.

A note on the actual warrant instructed police officers “Do not serve per chief.”

The mayor said during an interview about the firing that he learned about the attempt to keep Chappell out of jail following a conversation with District Judge Teresa Hughes. Robertson said he had become concerned because Inns’ staff was reporting to him that Inns was releasing too many prisoners on their own recognizance (without bail).

The court staff had been working on files and someone recalled the warrant with the odd notation.

Robertson said he turned the matter over to Assistant Police Chief Wayne Ballew and asked him to get to the bottom of it. Ballew, a retired state trooper, was hired in April.

When he was fired, Inns was already facing disciplinary action for taking possession of a drug-seized 2000 model Tahoe without permission from the mayor or council. Robertson said the SUV was seized in April and impounded at Mahoney’s Garage. Inns filled out the paperwork for the city to take possession of it and the circuit court released it July 30.

Robertson said Inns had already put new tires on the Tahoe before he was aware that the city had taken possession of it. He still doesn’t know who is responsible for the $4,600 payoff, the mayor said. He has asked the city attorney to look into it.
“I don’t think any of us want it,” the mayor said. “I think police ought to drive police cars.”

Since Inns was fired, Ballew has taken over his workload, Robertson said, adding that he has no plans to fill the position at this time. But eventually, he will likely ask the assistant chief if he is interested in becoming chief.