Fort Smith Police Chief Kevin Lindsey said the allegations against a department captain resulting in an ongoing investigation of the captain are “weak in substance,” and have had a “uniting effect” on the department.
The office of Sebastian County Sheriff Bill Hollenbeck is conducting a “fact finding” investigation into allegations that Fort Smith Police Captain Jarrard Copeland lied under oath during an August 2014 hearing before Sebastian County Circuit Judge James Cox.
Little Rock attorney Matt Campbell alleges that Copeland lied under oath on Aug. 29, 2014, as part of a hearing related to a whistleblower lawsuit by plaintiffs Don Paul Bales, Rick Entmeier and Wendall Sampson.
Campbell asked Sebastian County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Shue to file charges against Copeland. Shue responded by saying Campbell would need to ask the Sheriff’s office or Arkansas State Police to investigate the allegation. Campbell asked Hollenbeck to investigate.
On Jan. 27, Judge Cox, Hollenbeck and Shue met to discuss the matter. Hollenbeck said Judge Cox asked him to investigate. He said the judge “asked them to review the transcripts and interview those involved” and return a report to the judge who would make a decision.
Copeland, who complained about the allegations to the Fort Smith Board of Directors on Feb. 2, has not been placed on administrative leave during the investigation – a common action taken during an investigation.
Lindsey noted in an e-mail to Talk Business & Politics why he did not place Copeland on leave.
“There have been some occasions where officers have been placed on paid administrative leave when they were under investigation, although it is not done in every case. When an officer was placed on paid leave, it was done to remove officers who were presenting a significant disruption to the operations of the police department. That is not the case in this situation,” Lindsey said.
A similar question about Copeland’s leave decision was made by a Fort Smith citizen. In a reply copied to Acting Fort Smith Administrator Jeff Dingman, Lindsey noted: “In this case the allegations, while serious in nature but weak in substance, have actually had a uniting effect on the department’s operations.”
Campbell, the attorney representing the former Fort Smith police officers, said he is not surprised by Lindsey’s responses.
“I see two problems with this statement. First, it is illogical to say that the allegations are ‘weak in substance’ when Judge Cox and the Sebastian County Sheriff’s Office found enough substance to warrant an actual investigation, which is now over three weeks old,” Campbell noted in an e-mail to Talk Business & Politics. “Second, even if one ignores the absurdity of stating that allegations of felony perjury have had a ‘uniting effect’ on the FSPD’s operations, that statement is still contrary to available evidence, as I have have heard from multiple FSPD officers who are unhappy with Chief Lindsey’s handling of this whole matter. All that said, given how the Chief has covered for Capt. Copeland’s dishonesty for the last two-plus years, his statement here is hardly surprising.”