Shootings leave department short-staffed, on alert

(Source: KAIT)
(Source: KAIT)

BATESVILLE, AR (KAIT) - The Batesville Police Department is left short-staffed after two officer-involved shooting incidents in two months.

On November 3, officers were responding to a domestic incident when the suspect, Marvin Stair, shot Officer Michael Dickinson multiple times. Other officers then shot and killed Stair.

On December 16, officers pulled over a car on Highway 167.

A passenger in that car, Andrew D. Hatley, began to run away and pointed a gun at officers. The two officers, Jordan Akins and Amber Branscum, shot and injured Hatley.

Batesville Police Chief Alan Cockrill has 24 employees including his administrative staff.

With Akins and Branscum on administrative leave while Arkansas State Police investigate the shooting and Dickinson still recovering from his injuries, the department is down three patrol officers.

But Cockrill said his three investigators, the narcotics officer, Lt. Scarbrough, and himself will take patrol shifts to make sure the city is safe.

"We're all pitching in and still allowing, as much as we can, these guys their time off, because you know it is the holiday season and a lot of them have kids and have families and want to spend time with them," Cockrill said. "Right now everybody's a patrolman. We've got everybody in the force that has all of a sudden become patrolman."

The shootings have also reminded officers about the dangers of patrolling.

"Of course it has," Cockrill said. "You know, it puts all these guys a little bit on alert."

Cockrill said everyone can get complacent at times, especially in a community that is very supportive of its officers, but they have to remember that bad things can still happen at any time or place.

"Law enforcement I think all across the United States at times thinks that's happened there, it's never going to happen here," Cockrill said. "The last two events since November 3 and then December 16 have made us all realize that it can happen at home just as quick as it can in New York City."

He said although this is a traumatic experience for his officers and staff, having a wake-up call is not necessarily a bad thing. He believes it has just made them more aware and alert at all times.

The Batesville City Council did approve Cockrill to hire four more officers for 2018.

Their salaries were included in the 2018 that the city council approved at their meeting Monday night.

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