Leader Blues

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

TOP STORY >>New chief finds lot of heart in officers

By RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

Jacksonville Police Chief Gary Sipes has been on the job for about two months now and is very impressed with the department.

Sipes, who was the Benton police chief before taking over in April, said, “The best thing that I have found about the department is the number of dedicated officers and staff who want to work here and serve the city.

“These guys have the opportunity to go to larger departments in central Arkansas and make more money, but they chose to stay here,” he continued.

That means a lot to the chief who’s three sons all attended Jacksonville High School and live close by. He cites an incident just last week where officers “helped” evict a resident because that resident was a nuisance to that particular neighborhood.

The chief said the location was the site of an arrest and had people loitering in the area night and day.

“Our officers contacted the landlord and made them aware of the activities and the landlord’s responsibilities in cases like this,” the chief explained. “This is something we’ll continue to do.”

Sipes is also proud that the department will be sponsoring its first Citizens Police Academy in September.

“We are looking to have 25 to 30 residents in the class. They will meet one night a week for eight weeks and get a good inside look at the department,” he said.

The chief went on to explain, “You know sometimes you see an officer do something that doesn’t make a bit of sense to the normal citizen but we do things for a reason. I want to educate our citizens as best as we can so they have a positive image about their department.”

Even though the chief is proud of the “heart” the department has, he said it is lacking in equipment.

Thursday night he asked the city council to approve the purchase of Taser weapons, which shoot out an electrical charge to stun suspects.

“This will be the first time that we’ll have these electronic control units,” Sipes explained. “And it will help bring our officer injuries down because the officers will not likely have to put hands on a combative individual.”

The chief also said he is pushing training. “Our officers will receive and attend every training opportunity that presents itself.

The Criminal Justice Institute offers us excellent opportunities at no cost and I’ll take advantage of it,” he said.

Even though Sipes has been on the job just a few months he already has to deal with the budget concerns because of the rising cost of fuel.

“Right now he haven’t made any major changes, except to be aware of the cost and trying to drive smart,” the chief said.

With it being summer time, the department does have some patrol officers on bicycles and that helps keep fuel usage down.

Sipes, who has been married for 32 years and has three grown sons, started his police career when he was 18 as a cadet with the North Little Rock Police Department.

He became a North Little Rock police officer when he turned 21 and worked every division in the department before he retired in April 1999 and became the director for the city’s code enforcement department.

In 2004, he was selected to head up the Benton Police Department.

Just before that, he was a finalist for the open police chief job in Jacksonville left vacant by the departure of Wayne Ruthven.

Capt. Robert Baker was selected as chief and ran the force until his retirement in March.

Two of Sipes’ sons have followed him into law enforcement as one is a North Little Rock police office and the other is a Pulaski County deputy.