Mid-South Police Chief Rebuilds Trust after Federal Drug Bust
HELENA-WEST HELENA, AR (abc24.com) - Rebuilding trust and cleaning up the streets. It's tough work for the Helena-West Helena Police Department after one of the largest federal busts in Arkansas history.
On Tuesday, October 11, 2011, five of the department's cops were among the more than 50 people arrested in a massive drug and corruption investigation.
The city's new police chief hopes to restore confidence in the department.
The sale of black tar heroin, crack cocaine and methamphetamine was flourishing in the neighborhood near Second and Center in West Helena, until Arnell Willis, the city's new mayor, hired Uless Wallace as his new chief of police.
“I'm going to try to get anybody dealing these drugs, whether it's the nickel and dime dealer, or it's the one toting keys,” Chief Wallace tells abc24.com.
Wallace is fighting the drug war on two fronts: the streets of Helena-West Helena and within his own force.
Federal agents arrested five of his officers. Wallace says he's still rooting out the bad apples.
“There are a couple more here who are nervous," he says, "kind of like a cat in a room full of rocking chairs."
Corruption in the police department violates the public's trust. Wallace believes rebuilding it starts with him.
“They have to believe in their chief," says Wallace. "I established an open door policy and I'm making changes."
Before taking the job, the new chief claims the department had little structure, allowing officers to go rogue. Once he gets new cops onboard, he can spend more time fighting the drug war on its main front.
“I can't stop the drug trade," he says. "The war on drugs been going on since 1984, but I am going to try to put a dent in it here."
His first two weeks on the job, more than 20 illegal assault rifles and handguns were taken off the street. With more time, he's convinced he can make an even bigger impact.
Those arrested in Tuesday's raids are scheduled to appear in federal court on Thursday, October 13th.