Weekly Columns

Law enforcement officers put their lives on the line each day they dress in their uniform and leave for work. We are grateful for the men and women who take that risk to protect and serve their neighbors and keep their community safe. We must honor their service and sacrifice as well as continually recognize their heroism and courage.

In early January, we commemorate National Law Enforcement Officer Appreciation Day. This is a time to reflect on the unwavering commitment of officers to uphold the rule of law and fight crime while also ensuring these heroes always have the tools and training to protect themselves.

We are reminded of the uncertainty those who wear the badge face every day. They go to work not knowing if they will return home to see their loved ones again.

This is the reality for the family of Stone County Deputy Justin Smith who was fatally wounded on January 2, 2024 while attempting to serve a warrant.

Deputy Smith was a distinguished member of the law enforcement community for 24 years. He was proud to be in a position to make a difference in the lives of Arkansans and took advantage of that opportunity on countless occasions.

The citizens Deputy Smith swore to protect demonstrated their reverence and awe for his sacrifice, lining the streets as his body was escorted back to Mountain View and establishing a memorial outside the Stone County Courthouse. The outpouring of support is a fitting tribute to a man whose life was tragically cut short because he was enforcing the law. He will forever be remembered as a hero.

We also show our gratitude for these public servants by celebrating their accomplishments. In a December ceremony, Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin recognized the dedication and commitment of law enforcement officers from across the state and named two state troopers as officers of the year for their actions going above and beyond the call of duty. 

Special Agent Matt Foster and Senior Corporal David Smothers used their training to recognize the signs of human trafficking during a traffic stop, ultimately saving the victim and apprehending the perpetrator. 

These officers are well deserving of this accolade. This episode highlights the need to ensure their colleagues at all levels have updated training and tools to combat crime.

Law enforcement officers need to know we have their backs. They must have the resources, equipment and instruction to ensure offenders are held accountable for their actions. 

I’m proud to back the blue. That’s why I support commonsense federal proposals that increase penalties for criminals who target those who wear the badge and strengthen laws to protect federal officers from those who deliberately target them.

I’ve long advocated for federal programs that help Arkansas police departments hire more personnel, purchase new gear and enhance their technology. I will continue to partner with law enforcement agencies to deliver whatever is necessary to protect our communities.

Working together, we can all help improve public safety across our state and show those on the frontlines of this work the respect they deserve and have earned.