JERICHO, Ark. (WMC) - The police chief of a small town in Arkansas wants a federal investigation into the practices of the Crittenden County Sheriff.
Jericho, Arkansas has a population of about 120. The town’s claim to fame -- it generates much of its revenue through speeding tickets. The county sheriff is no fan of the practice. And the Jericho Police chief, no fan of the sheriff, is now accusing him of being a racist.
Jericho Police Chief Roy Hill says Crittenden County Sheriff Mike Allen instructed a man to follow him from Arkansas into Memphis, to track how he used city vehicles. Their encounter in a parking lot at Poplar and Cleveland earlier this week was recorded on another Jericho officer’s cell phone.
“We’ve had several incidents with Crittenden County Sheriff Mike Allen,” Chief Hill told WMC Action News 5. “We feel that the sheriff has targeted a small black town and people of color.”
The son of the man who followed Chief Hill across the bridge got a speeding ticket in Jericho. And Sheriff Allen’s been a vocal critic of the town’s ticket writing practices.
In a statement to WMC Action News 5 Sheriff Allen said: “I never told or asked him to follow any officers and never would do that. I received complaints over the years about Jericho Police running a speed trap and ticketing individuals. I’ve always told them the courts were the best way of handling any disputes.”
At a Thursday news conference, Hill accused Allen of trying to intimidate him.
“We feel the sheriff did instruct him to do that,” he said. “He was adamant about it. And he told us where I had rental property in Memphis and everything.”
Chief Hill wants Sheriff Allen’s actions investigated, as does Jericho Mayor Ima Shumpert:
“I’m standing with my chief on this,” she told WMC-TV. “We just want them to stop with this harassment.”
Hubert Bass, Executive Director of the Crittenden County Justice Commission, says answers are needed.
“If the allegations are true,” he said. “And I viewed the video, then what we have is an abuse of power, quite simply, abuse of power, possibly based on race.”
Teia Handy with the Crittenden County NAACP joined the call for clarity into what’s been happening between Jericho officers and the sheriff’s department.
“Mike Allen, you’ve been put on notice,” she said. “We are coming for you. I will start a petition asking for your resignation. We will no longer tolerate this type of behavior.”
In another incident, Jericho Police issued two speeding tickets to the son of an Arkansas State trooper. Chief Hill says that trooper later pulled a Jericho officer over and ticketed him for not wearing a seatbelt. The trooper’s son, says Hill, works in the Crittenden County Sheriff’s Office. Any bad blood, says Sheriff Allen, isn’t about race.
“This is not the first time Chief Hill has called me a racist,” said Allen. “I will continue to pray for him because he has anger built up against me that I feel is not justified.”
After being followed by the stranger, Chief Hill filed a report with Memphis Police. And he says he intends to file a complaint about the sheriff with the FBI.
“There’s a lot the sheriff has done,” said Hill. “I fear for my safety. I fear for my officers’ safety. That man told me he knew where my property was, and now I fear for my safety.”
Sheriff Allen has been in law enforcement for 40 years. He previously served as assistant chief of the West Memphis Police Department. Chief Hill says he and his officer were in Memphis, in their squad cars, conducting approved town business at an auto parts supply store.
Sheriff Allen released the following response to the video:
I have been in Public Service and Law Enforcement for the past 40 years as of October of this year. 39 Years of Service have been with the Crittenden County Sheriff’s Department and the West Memphis Police Department. It saddens me to see a person in Authority call another a Racist with no basis. I have a 40 year record of condemning all forms of racism, bigotry and discrimination. I have spoken by phone with the man in the video that followed Chief Hill and another Officer into Memphis and listened to his complaint and did tell him that it was a court matter and explained to him that he would need to contact the prosecutor’s office to have an investigation initiated by law. I never told or asked him to follow any officers and would never do that. This is not the first time Chief Hill has called me a racist and it seems that he has in his mind that I am. I will continue to pray for him because he has anger built up against me that I feel is not justified. I have received complaints over the years of the Jericho Police Department running a speed trap and ticketing individuals. I have had phone conversations with numerous Individuals over the years that claimed not to have been speeding. I have always told them that the courts were the best way of handling any disputes. The State of Arkansas does have a Speed Trap Law that is found in Arkansas Code 12-8-403. In this the act states that upon the request of the prosecuting attorney of any district in which an affected municipality is located, the Director of the Arkansas State Police is authorized to investigate and determine whether any municipality is abusing police powers.