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Little Rock names a new police chief

Josie Lenora
Heath Helton spoke during a press conference at City Hall on Wednesday after being named chief. He previously served in an interim capacity.

Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. has named the city’s new chief of police. During a press conference Wednesday, he announced Interim Chief Heath Helton will serve in the position.

Helton has led the department since Interim Chief Wayne Bewley stepped down earlier this month. 43 people applied for the position, according to a press release. Mayor Scott told reporters he wanted to get the position filled before winter weather arrives on Thursday.

The department has faced internal struggles and lawsuits in recent years. Scott said he choose Helton after two local police unions announced their support for the candidate. The Black Police Officers Association and the Fraternal Order of Police met with Scott to advocate for Helton.

“Anytime you have the FOP and the BPOA all on one accord, that's a good thing,” Scott said, “and it's a demonstration of our mission to truly be unified as a city.”

At the announcement, Helton thanked his parents and his wife Carmen, who is a police officer in North Little Rock. He also voiced support for recent anti-crime initiatives the mayor has undertaken. That includes 21st Century Policing strategies and Little Rock’s real-time crime center which uses high-tech tools, including surveillance cameras.

“A lot of people want [community oriented policing] back out in the communities, which I wholeheartedly believe that’s important,” Helton said.

His promotion comes after the Little Rock Board of Directors on Tuesday night approved pay increases for officers. The department is working to fill a large number of vacancies.

Josie Lenora is the Politics/Government Reporter for UA Little Rock Public Radio.