State Rep. Dwight Tosh, R-Jonesboro, told Talk Business & Politics that his 37-year career with the Arkansas State Police has helped to guide him during his five terms as a state representative. The Republican from Jonesboro, who represents District 38, spoke at the Jonesboro Kiwanis Club meeting Wednesday (June 7).
During the last legislative session, Tosh said he sponsored about 15 bills. One measure that he spent a lot of time pushing through both chambers was a bill that makes a coroner’s report in a homicide investigation not subject to the state’s Freedom of Information Act.
Investigative reports in those investigations are not public records until the case is closed, but there have been some legal interpretations that the coroner’s reports were not under that umbrella, he said.
The bill passed unanimously in the state House and Senate.
“It’s a critical part of an investigation that doesn’t need to be released until the investigation is complete,” he said.
When he was serving during his second term, Tosh and several other legislators went to visit a prison in Pine Bluff. He wanted to visit with one inmate that he had a vivid connection too.
The inmate had escaped from a prison in Newport when Tosh served as the captain of the ASP division located there.
He and a sergeant left their office to help search for the inmate. The sergeant noticed a man at a gas station and he looked odd. When he confronted the man, it was the escaped inmate and he fled into a nearby subdivision.
The inmate took a woman hostage inside a house in the neighborhood. Tosh set up a command center and negotiations began. At one point, the inmate called the dispatch and told them he had a rifle pointed at Tosh.
“Sure enough, I looked and the curtain in the house was slightly moved and I could tell a rifle was pointed at me … I dove into that patrol car … I’m thankful he gave me a warning,” Tosh said to a chorus of laughter.
Hours of negotiations ensued. The man wanted a pack of cigarettes and Tosh agreed. The cigarettes were placed on the carport. Snipers were ready to shoot the inmate. He led the woman outside and she retrieved the pack and the snipers couldn’t get a clean shot.
Eventually, the man agreed to let the woman go. When she was being hurried away from the house by officers, she frantically told Tosh not to harm the inmate.
He was flabbergasted.
“You better not harm a hair on his head,” the woman told Tosh. “He’s innocent.”
Tosh was able to negotiate with the man and he agreed to surrender. Back at the prison in Pine Bluff, he just wanted to say hello to the man. The then spokesperson for the Arkansas Department of Corrections, Dina Tyler, said she would oblige the request.
They walked through the prison and out into a yard. She pointed to the electrified fence.
“He died right over there trying to escape,” she told Tosh.
Not all of his experiences as a police officer were dangerous or ominous. Once he was headed back to his office in Harrisburg late-night. He noticed a man in an alley stealing stuff from a local business.
Tosh approached the man who claimed he was just hiding in the alley because he was supposed to be at a married woman’s house, but her husband never left for work. Whoever stole the items just happened to put them in his trunk, the man told Tosh.
During his trial, the man’s attorney argued that the alley had no light and there was no way that Tosh from his vantage point could see down the alley and identify who put the items in the trunk.
“How far can you see in the dark?” the attorney asked.
Without skipping a beat, Tosh responded.
“I can see all the way to the moon in the dark,” he said to laughter.