El Dorado News

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November 12, 2018
El Dorado News Times
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Police department looks for non-lethal options for non-compliant suspects

By Tia Lyons
This article was published December 12, 2017 at 5:00 a.m.

The El Dorado Police Department is considering a new non-lethal weapon to subdue suspects who are combative and/or non-compliant.

On Monday, Police Chief Billy White asked members of the El Dorado Civil Service Commission to review a proposed amendment to EPD policy and regulations to allow for the use of the JPX4 pepper spray gun.

White said the weapon was recently introduced to the market, and many law enforcement agencies are using it.

“I believe the (Union County Sheriff’s Office) uses them in the jail,” White said.

White said EPD officers deploy Mace and Tasers to restrain suspects who are non-compliant.

Lt. Jason Dumas said the EPD’s Taser inventory is nearing the end of its life span.

“They’re very expensive to replace. When you break a Taser, it can’t be fixed.” Dumas said, adding that the JPX4 is about half the cost of a Taser.

The new pepper spray gun launches cartridges that contain a resin solution that is similar in consistency to a gel, Dumas explained, showing commissioners a JPX4 and cartridges.

“It has four cartridges, and it shoots a ‘pepper ball’ … when it hits, it kind of sticks,” Dumas said. “One thing I like about it is it’s mechanical, so you don’t have to charge a battery.”

White said the JPX4 also allows for better accuracy and more distance between the officer and the suspect.

Added Dumas, “With pepper spray, you’re going to get some on you.”

White said the police department is looking to secure a grant to field test the guns for comparison purposes.

“We see a need to go a different tool, and this is the one we want to start with. This is what a lot of departments are going to,” White said.

Commissioner Janis Van Hook asked if the cartridges were refillable, and Dumas said no.

White asked commissioners to review the proposed policy change and return with any comments or suggestions.

Both White and Fire Chief Chad Mosby told commissioners about upcoming vacancies that will result in a round of promotions within each department.

Mosby said a firefighter — a captain — is moving to Texas this month — which means promotions for a captain and lieutenant’s position.

“When that happens, I will exhaust my lieutenant’s list,” Mosby said.

State law requires that the captain’s position be filled in 90 days, and Mosby said the time will “cut it pretty close” to spring civil service exams.

The exams are usually administered starting the first Monday in April for the police and fire departments.

“As long as they know we’re on it, they haven’t harassed us about it,” Commissioner Scott Ellen said about the testing.

Mosby told commissioners that firefighter Wesley McCullough will return to work from military deployment on Dec. 27.

With the retirement of Lt. Randy Harvey, who stepped down Dec. 1 after 25 years with the EPD, promotional interviews for sergeant and lieutenant’s positions are scheduled for Dec. 22, White said.

A pinning ceremony is slated for Dec. 29.

White also told commissioners that an entry-level candidate was interviewed Monday and is undergoing the hiring process, noting that the candidate passed fall civil service exams that were administered in October.

Four candidates will graduate Friday from the Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy, the police chief reported.

White and Mosby said they are still poring through existing policy and regulations within their respective departments to make revisions.

The civil service commission is in the midst of revising its policies and regulations, which have not been updated in more than a decade.

Commissioners are using the recently revised Fort Smith civil service rules as a guideline.

“Currently, the one big hurdle we have is time to sit down and go through these policies systematically,” Mosby said.

He said firefighters are using the Fort Smith rules and regulations and tailoring the verbiage to fit El Dorado.

Mosby pointed out that when the Fort Smith documents reference state law, the number of the Arkansas code is included.

He noted that Fort Smith’s fire department is larger than El Dorado’s, and Fort Smith is the third largest city in the state.

“It’s an arduous process. It’s not anything I want to do quickly,” he said.

Tia Lyons may be contacted at 870-862-6611 or tlyons@eldoradonews.com.

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