Gov.-elect Sarah Sanders announced Monday (Dec. 5) she would nominate Captain Mike Hagar as the next secretary of the Department of Public Safety and that the Secretary of Public Safety A.J. Gray will remain as director of the Arkansas Division of Emergency Management, a post he has previously held.
“Captain Mike Hagar is the right person to help me build a safer, stronger Arkansas as the incoming Secretary of Public Safety and Director of State Police,” Sanders said. “As violent crime is on the rise and deadly, illegal drugs are flooding our communities, now more than ever we need a strong, experienced leader who will be tough on crime – and I am confident that Captain Hagar is that person.”
“Arkansas has a serious crime problem, and I am ready to get to work on day one addressing it,” Hagar said. “Governor-elect Sanders has the right vision to bring safety back to our communities, and I’m honored that she has chosen me to be the next Secretary of Public Safety and leader of the brave men and women who make up the Arkansas State Police.”
The Department of Public Safety oversees the Arkansas State Police, Arkansas Division of Emergency Management, Arkansas Crime Information Center, Arkansas State Crime Lab, and other boards and commissions. Gubernatorial cabinet appointments must be confirmed by the Arkansas State Senate.
Sanders said she wants to see legislation that would alter truth-in-sentencing guidelines and lengthen sentences for violent criminals. A multitude of proposals are under consideration and will be proposed in the January regular session.
“We cannot continue to allow the out-of-control crime that is taking place,” she told reporters in a short press conference Monday.
Hagar is the captain of Troop A, Highway Patrol Division – the largest field command in the state – and has more than 26 years of service with Arkansas State Police. As the Troop A Captain, he oversees a staff of more than 70 commissioned and non-commissioned personnel while coordinating with other law enforcement agencies. He also currently serves on the Arkansas State Police Association’s executive board.
Prior to commanding Troop A, Captain Hagar served on the Executive Protection Detail for more than 14 years – rising in the ranks from trooper to captain. As Captain, he supervised all operations regarding the security of the Governor of Arkansas, immediate family, and the Governor’s Mansion Grounds, coordinated all logistics for the Governor’s domestic and international travel, and evaluated threat assessments. In 2016, he was elected to the Executive Board of the National Governor’s Security Association.
Captain Hagar received his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. In 1995, he graduated from the Little Rock Police Academy and in 2012, he graduated from Northwestern University School of Police Staff and Command, Session #332.
Gary, who was appointed to the DPS post on Aug. 3, 2022, will serve as director of the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management (ADEM), which has a wide swath of responsibilities involving natural and man-made disaster response and preparation.
“A.J. Gary has done a great job as Director of Emergency Management, which is why I am pleased he has committed to staying on in that capacity. I look forward to working with both individuals in the years ahead.”
“I’m looking forward to joining the Sanders Administration and continuing to ensure that our state is always prepared for the next disaster or emergency,” Gary said. “The men and women who make up ADEM are the best, and I am excited to continuing leading this critical division.”
He is a retired police chief, serving over 28 years with the Conway Police Department. During a break in his law enforcement career, A.J. was the chief security Administrator for Air Transport International LLC, an international FAA Part 121 air carrier. In this capacity, he was responsible for all international and domestic security related issues involving the airline, including flight and cabin crew security training, facility security, and TSA and FAA regulatory compliance. He is also a graduate of the FBI National Academy and attended the Naval Postgraduate School Center for Homeland Defense and Security’s Executive Leadership Program.
During the press conference on Monday announcing the two appointments, Sanders said the “far left demonized the men and women of law enforcement” and that was “unacceptable,” although she provided no concrete examples. Sanders said she would devote more resources to law enforcement, including pay incentives, equipment and training, but specifics were not detailed.
When asked during the press conference about former President Donald Trump’s call over the weekend for the “termination” of the U.S. Constitution to throw out his 2020 election loss, Sanders declined to comment.
“My focus, right now, today is on the people of Arkansas making sure that we’re providing the safest, best state that we can. And that’s what we’re going to be focused on our questions and answers today as well,” she said. “My focus today and the only announcements I have are about the personnel we are adding and intend to nominate on how we can best serve the people of Arkansas.”
Sanders has announced she will make another cabinet appointment on Tuesday.