State police director visits UCA class

Business students of Dr. Roy Whitehead got a lecture from the law recently. It wasn’t a matter of discipline, however; it was information from the state’s head cop … Col. Don Melton, Director of the Arkansas State Police.

Candid and relaxed throughout the nearly two-hour session in BBA, Col. Melton covered a variety of topics and then fielded questions. He didn’t shy away from any question, nor did he throw out a “no comment.”

Among the highlights:

-The ASP is composed of 1,000 plus employees, including both “gun carriers” and civilians.

-The Highway Patrol is the largest and most expensive of the three divisions of the State Police with 400 men and women patrolling the highways. Melton called the job of the highway patrol not one of writing tickets, but of keeping the highways safe and open for commerce.

-In patroling the highways, state troopers generate a key source of revenue for local governments, but Melton stressed officers are assigned no quotas. “I tell them, ‘write as many tickets as you’d like’” he quipped.

-The second division of the ASP is the Criminal Investigation Division. That includes 150 specially-trained officers who assist local law enforcement when they are asked to come in during criminal investigations. “We call it our ‘reactive division,” said Melton.

-The final division is the Crimes Against Children. It has brought high praise to the state in general and the ASP in particular. According to Melton, there were 31,000 allegations made a year ago with about half deemed to be valid. “These are a priority,” Melton said.

In another area, Melton said the two major things he looks for when recruiting officers are integrity and having a “servant’s heart.” Those are part of his strategic plan for recruiting, he said. While realizing his efforts to put only top-flight people in ASP uniforms is costly, he said, “we are not going to lower our standards.’

Though the department is now more than 100 troopers short because of budget constraints, Melton has fought for better pay for officers and has been successful. By replacing retirees with civilians, he has been able to accomplish the following: Troopers are hired at $25,300 and promptly sent to the police academy for six months; then they are raised to $27,000, put on a year’s probationary period and sent into the field; at the end of that year, they are increased to $33,000. Then with raises “every couple of years” they can earn up to $45,000.

Announcing that 50 troopers will be hired in May, Melton said, “I am going to be disappointed if at least half aren’t black or minority.”

The former U.S. Marshal is a longtime friend of President Hardin who came to the presentation to greet Melton. The president called Melton a “real visionary.”

-Tommy Jackson