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W. Memphis police chief retiring, to focus on talks

by Kenneth Heard | August 27, 2011 at 5:02 a.m.

— West Memphis Police Chief Robert Paudert, whose son and another police officer were fatally shot last year during a traffic stop, will retire Wednesday to focus on training other officers in safety measures.

Paudert was named the Crittenden County town’spolice chief in 1999.

“It’s time to move on,” Paudert said. “I’ve lost the passion for law enforcement after my son and Bill [Evans] were killed.”

Sgt. Brandon Paudert and officer Thomas “Bill” Evans were killed May 20, 2010, after Evans stopped a van at an Interstate 40 exit on thewestern edge of West Memphis.

Authorities have said Joseph Kane, the son of the van’s driver, Jerry Kane, shot the officers with an AK-47 assault rifle.

Law enforcement officers killed both Kanes during a shootout in a West Memphis Wal-Mart parking lot about an hour after the officers were killed.

Since then, Paudert has traveled the country to talk to law enforcement agencies about anti-government extremists.

Authorities have said the Kanes were followers of the “sovereign citizens” movement, whose members believe they are not subject to city, state or federal statutes and instead answers only to English common law.

“This is a new passion for me,” he said. “I have redirected my entire focus to training. It’s working.”

Paudert said he decided to retire while returning Thursday from a trip to Fargo, N.D. He is scheduled to speak in California, Maine, Oregon and Canada in the next few months.

“I’m booked through May 2012,” he said.

“I think this is helping other officers, and it may help them avoid what happened here,” he said.

Paudert has recommended Assistant Police Chief Donald Oakes be named the chief.Mayor William Johnson has not yet named Paudert’s successor.

“This will be a big loss to us,” Oakes said of Paudert’s retirement. “We are so far ahead of where we were when he got here.

“We’ve had some trials and tribulations,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of incidents that we were able to handle. I think that’s because of the experience he brought to the job,” Oakes said.

While chief, Paudert dealt with the deaths of three of his officers - his son and Evans, and officer Michael Waters, who was killed Sept. 11, 2003, when the patrol car he was driving struck a concrete barrier during a pursuit on Interstate 55.

Paudert also oversaw the department when three of his officers were charged with reckless homicide in Tennessee in the July 18, 2004, deaths of two people they were pursuing. A Shelby County circuit judge dismissed the charges against officers John Gardner, Troy Galtelli and Vance Plumoff in 2008.

And in 2007, a West Memphis officer fatally shot a 12-yearold boy holding a toy pistol. In April, a U.S. District Court jury in Jonesboro said the officer was not liable in the shooting death of DeAunta Farrow.

“We had some tough times,” Paudert added. “But we got through them.

“I’m leaving on my own terms now. It’s a good time to leave.”

Arkansas, Pages 11 on 08/27/2011

Print Headline: W. Memphis police chief retiring, to focus on talks

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