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West Memphis welcomes new police chief

Updated: Jun. 2, 2021 at 10:12 PM CDT
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WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. (WMC) - West Memphis, Arkansas has a lot to celebrate in 2021.

The city has a new civic building, new library, new fire station, and now a new police chief.

He’s a familiar face among Mid-South police agencies. As an accounting major at the University of Memphis in 1987, Michael Pope planned to become a stock broker. A career fair changed his mind and law enforcement became his focus.

He started out as a deputy jailer at 201 Poplar and three decades later, on Wednesday, June 2, 2021, Pope was introduced as the West Memphis police chief.

“It is with great pleasure and honor that I now serve the people of West Memphis as the new chief,” said Pope.

After working for the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) his entire career, Pope is taking his experience across the bridge.

“I have an opportunity to bring in a gentleman who has over 30 years of experience in law enforcement,” said West Memphis Mayor Marco McClendon. “He has an impeccable record. I look forward to him moving West Memphis forward and taking our city to the next level.”

During his time with the SCSO, Pope served as commander of the Special Victims and Domestic Violence Unit. He also worked in the Street Crimes Unit, Gang Task Force, General Investigation Bureau, and the Jail Division. In his new role, Pope says he’s dedicated to bringing accountability and transparency in the West Memphis Police Department. The West Memphis City Council recently approved funding to buy body cameras for officers for the first time, something Pope absolutely supports.

“[It] gives the public a clear image of how police officers work and it allows the public to see how we do investigations,” he said. “At the same time, it clears officers of false allegations, so I’m in favor of body cams.”

Boosting recruiting efforts and increasing training for police officers are other top priorities for Pope. Community engagement, he says, is also critical to running a successful police department.

“Most importantly is professionalism,” he added. “How can we respect the public and how can we be transparent in how we conduct our duties? I plan to build trust in the business community, engage in conversation with faith-based leaders, and include our education leaders in restructuring the broken images of our youth.”

McClendon thanked retiring Chief Eddie West for his 39 years of service to West Memphis, and warned his new top cop:

“You have some large shoes to fill,” he told Pope.

And that’s a goal Pope said he looks forward to accomplishing.

“It’s a great day in West Memphis,” he said to applause. “Thank you!”

McClendon involved the business and faith communities in the search for a new police chief. He said the decision to hire Pope was unanimous.

WMC Action News 5 reached out to Pope’s former boss, Shelby County Sheriff Floyd Bonner, who said, “Michael Pope was a valuable member of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office with over 30 years of service. He has served the citizens of Shelby County exceptionally well and he will be greatly missed.”

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