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New state police head sworn in

by Grant Lancaster | January 15, 2023 at 12:00 a.m.

The Arkansas State Police captain who Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders nominated to lead the state policing agency is committed to making sure his troopers have the tools they need to stop crime in the state, he said Friday after his symbolic swearing-in ceremony at State Police Headquarters in Little Rock.

"The mission that we do is too important to fail," Col. Mike Hagar told the room full of legislators, troopers and other members of local law enforcement. He said the incoming administration and the Legislature had essentially given state police "an open checkbook."

Immediately after Hagar took the oath of office on stage in front of several parked state police vehicles, members of the agency's SWAT team perched atop a black-painted armored vehicle at the back of the room cheered and yelled an inside joke over applause. Hagar worked closely with the team in the past, he said, praising their professionalism.

Hagar quickly became choked up and tearful at the start of his speech as he talked about his acceptance of Christianity.

"I can't stand before a group this size and not recognize that," Hagar said.

The 26-year state police veteran also laid out a vision of a state police agency that would be transparent but also aggressive on crime.

"We are not gonna police from a defensive posture," Hagar said firmly.

Sanders told the crowd that safety is her "first and biggest commitment" following her inauguration.

"We will not stop until we get rid of the violent crime in the state of Arkansas," Sanders said. "It is simply unacceptable."

The governor shared another goal Friday -- to teach children in the state to respect and appreciate the police who protect them. Sanders implied that the lawmakers will be held responsible for her meeting those public safety goals.

"And if I don't, write one of these state legislators and blame it on them," Sanders said.

Hagar first met Sanders while working on the family protection detail for her father, then-Gov. Mike Huckabee.

He joked that he learned long ago not to try to argue with Sanders, while she credited Hagar and other troopers with teaching her how to drive -- poorly, she joked -- and how to play blackjack.

Hagar in his speech promised that Arkansans would see "a return on their investment" for the money that will be given to state police.

For her part, Sanders said she intends to make sure Arkansas is considered the safest state in the nation.

Hagar took the reins of the agency from Col. Bill Bryant, who served under Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Hagar most recently served as head of Troop A of the Highway Patrol Division -- the largest command in the state serving central Arkansas.

Print Headline: New state police head sworn in

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