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Interim chief tabbed to lead Russellville PD

By Tammy Keith

This article was published October 18, 2012 at 12:00 a.m.

— Newly appointed Russellville Police Chief Jeff Humphrey said his interest in law enforcement started when he was growing up in North Little Rock.

“The North Little Rock police used to run radar in my neighborhood a lot, and I would stand on the side of the street talking to them. … I really probably just bugged them a lot,” Humphrey said, but the officers were patient with him.

“I’d ride my bicycle down to where they stopped a car, and I’d watch them write tickets,” he said.

Humphrey, 50, who served as interim Russellville police chief beginning July 1 when Police Chief Tom McMillen retired, was named to the position Saturday by Mayor Bill Eaton.

Born in Russellville, Humphrey said he grew up partially in Atkins, moved to North Little Rock and came back to Russellville for his senior year of high school.

After graduation, he moved back to North Little Rock and worked in retail management. He spent four years in the Navy, and he said that when he was on leave, he often visited his best friend, who was a Little Rock police officer.

“I’d ride with him, and he’d say, ‘You just need to do this.’ I said, ‘I think you’re right,’” Humphrey said.

Humphrey joined the Russellville Police Department in 1988 as a patrolman. He served as a major in the department and was assistant chief for five years before being named interim chief.

He was chosen from among five candidates, all of whom Eaton interviewed.

Eaton said in a statement emailed Monday, “It is my belief that Jeff Humphrey is extremely knowledgeable in his career field, has ample training and well over 20 years of experience.

“Morale at the Police Department has been at a high level for some time, and I want it to stay that way. It is the team I am concerned about in this needed selection. There are things in life you can control and variables you cannot, and during this interim period, Maj. Humphrey demonstrated the savvy and flexibility to sort out which is which.

“I look forward to a great relationship with Chief Humphrey and an even greater level of service to the city of Russellville.”

Alderman Martin Irwin, the City Council’s liaison to the Police Department, said he has been impressed with Humphrey’s leadership.

“Jeff has performed very well under the most difficult of circumstances,” Irwin said.

He cited several incidents, including armed robberies, a homicide and an officer-involved shooting that have occurred in the past few months.

“The RPD acted swiftly, decisively and very professionally in all cases,” Irwin said. “The officer-involved shooting was impressive to me because [the Arkansas State Police were] called in immediately, without any hesitation, to investigate independently.”

On Oct. 5, a Russellville police officer shot and killed a man after being dispatched to a residence for a suicidal subject. The man came outside brandishing a .22-caliber revolver, Humphrey said.

Irwin said Humphrey has earned the right to be chief of police.

“I continue to be impressed with his demeanor and his ideas,” Irwin said.

Humphrey, who oversees 56 full-time officers, said his first goal will be to get through the department’s budgeting process.

“We’re asking to take a lot of cuts next year,” he said. “With the economy the way it is, revenues are down, and we’re having to make cuts.”

Humphrey said no cuts would be made to staff.

The other applicants for the job included two Russellville Police Department employees, Capt. Charles Falwell, 47, and Capt. David Davis, 56; Capt. Scott Rentfro, 48, of Russellville, with the Pope County Sheriff’s Office; and Maj. J.R. Hankins, 57, of Alexander, Arkansas State Police, Eastern Region commander, Highway Patrol Division.

Humphrey said Falwell and Davis support him 100 percent.

“The working relationship I have with the command staff … is phenomenal,” Humphrey said. “We have no issues.”

He said he met with supervisors to talk about their relationship.

“I asked them, ‘What do you want from a chief?’ They said respect, to be honest and to tell them what’s expected. They want to know what I want.”

He said the supervisors, in turn, asked Humphrey what he wants from them.

“I made it the most

simplistic way I knew how: What I want for you guys to do is the right thing every time. It’s that simple,” Humphrey said. “When there’s a problem, fix it. If you’ve got an officer that needs your mentoring or something like that, help him. When you have an officer who needs advice on a particular call, be there for him.

“Their expectation and my expectations are very similar. We do have a good police department. I go to these chief’s conventions and things like that, and I hear about these problems, … and I say, ‘I don’t have that problem.’”

An assistant chief has not yet been named.

Humphrey and his wife, Jeanine, a schoolteacher, have two children, a son, Logan, 21, and a daughter, Lauren, 19, both students at Arkansas Tech University in Russellville.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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