On Thursday, July 16th, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson issued a mandate requiring everyone in public to wear a mask, both inside and outside. However, there are exceptions. The mandate basically states that anyone in a public area, indoors or out, who will be around any non-household members and cannot maintain social distancing of more than six feet, must wear a mask that covers both the mouth and nose. However, a mask is not required under several circumstances. Those circumstances include the following:
• younger than 10 years of age;
• with a medical condition or disability that prevents wearing a face covering;
• performing job duties where a mask could inhibit the ability to safely and effectively perform the duty;
• participating in athletic activities where the mask would inhibit those activities;
• consuming food or drink;
• driving alone or with passengers from the driver's household
• receiving services that require access to the face for security, surveillance, or other purposes.
• voting, assisting voters, serving as poll watchers or actively performing election administration duties;
• engaged in religious worship activities;
• giving a speech or performance for broadcast or to an audience (however those persons shall maintain social distancing);
• in counties where the Department of Health has certified the risk of community transmission of COVID-19 to be low.
The mandate stipulates that persons in violation can be cited and, if convicted, receive a fine of $100.00, up to $500.00. However, first-time violators shall receive a verbal or written warning. Violators under the age of 18 shall not be cited but only receive warnings. People cannot be jailed or detained for longer than it takes to issue a citation. It also says the mandate shall not prohibit law enforcement officers or local officials from enforcing trespassing laws or other applicable laws in removing violators at the request of businesses or other property owners.
Sheriff Shane Jones stated he is confident that the citizens of Pope County have the ability to make their own decision as to whether or not they fall under the mandate issued by the Governor. He stressed that if you see someone not wearing a mask in public, it may be that person falls under one of the exemptions listed by the Governor's Office. Businesses may require patrons to wear a mask and, if customers refuse to wear a mask or refuse to leave the premises, the business is welcome to call law enforcement as this may be a criminal trespass situation. But, citizens in public not wearing a mask may very well have a legitimate, exempted reason not to. Please keep that in mind.
April 28, 2020
Pope County Judge Ben Cross
Atkins Mayor Rowdy Sweet
Dover Mayor Roger Lee
Hector Mayor Carey McGee
London Mayor Eddie Price
Pottsville Mayor Randy Tankersly
Russellville Mayor Richard Harris
SUBJECT: CENSUS 2020
In a joint press release, all the mayors of Pope County's six incorporated municipalities, along with County Judge Ben Cross, would like to remind everyone of the pivotal importance of participating in the current 2020 census that is already underway. The census is each communities' opportunity to "stand up and be counted," and is virtually the only mechanism by which schools, cities, and counties can receive federal, state, and grant funding.
The census is the very tool utilized to afford individual representation on everything from local city councils to the U.S. Congress, and redistricting will occur following this census which will affect that representation for another decade.
The U.S. Census Bureau reports Pope County missed out on 28% of the population in the 2000 census and 26% of the population in the 2010 census equating to 15,438 residents who were not included in our 2010 count. This means our 2010 census of 61,754 should have realistically been 77,192. To put this into perspective, Governor Asa Hutchinson, in one of his recent daily press briefings, focused directly on the financial impact of the census to the state of Arkansas. He stated each person missed in the census count is worth $3,000 in federal turnback funds over the life of the census. To put that into local economic impact, that means the 15,438 persons missed in the 2010 census equaled $46,314,000 in lost federal monies over the last decade to Pope County and its' cities. With over 46 million dollars in impact to Pope County alone, the figures for the entire state of Arkansas reach into the billions in lost federal funding.
In light of our current conditions in respect to the coronavirus and its' extensive media coverage, we just want to emphasize the current census is of extreme importance and encourage our residents to participate as soon as possible. The numbers are reflected by the current Pope County participation rates as of this week:
Pope County Overall: 50.8%
As you can see, with barely a 50% participation rate, our communities, schools, and equity in funding, are at significant risk for the next decade. You can track your community at: https://2020census.gov/en/response-rates.html
The census participation has become easier to access than ever before with a first-time entirely online version in addition to traditional mail out varieties, and by phone. The simplest method involves just clicking on the link: my2020census.gov The average census count takes less than 10 minutes to complete, yet will benefit your community for the next 10 years.
The Pope County Library System has graciously taken the initiative and task of being the point of contact for anyone seeking information or assistance with completing their 2020 census return, and they may be reached at 968-4368. PCLS has trained individuals willing to assist anyone in Pope County who requests it.
Finally, we encourage every resident to immediately complete their 2020 census and let your voice be heard. Taking part in the census dates back to 1790, and by constitutional standards, has been deemed as important as your right to vote; it's a way to participate in our democracy and say, "I COUNT!"
In accordance with the directives and recommendations of the Arkansas Department of Health to limit public interaction, the Pope County Sheriff's Office announces that as of 12:00 noon on Wednesday, March 18, 2020, the lobby will be closed to walk-in traffic. The lobby will remain open for video visitation, but all payments must be made via website or you may drop payments into the locked drop box in the front lobby. If you wish to make a fine payment online, you may do so at www.myfinepayment.com. If you leave a payment in the drop box, please make sure you include your name, date of birth and a contact phone number. Envelopes are available for your convenience.
Our switchboard will remain open and clerical offices will be manned from 8:00 to 4:30 to take phone calls and answer questions from the public. When possible, reports will be made over the phone with an officer. If you have a true emergency, please call 911 and an officer will respond. If you need a copy of an accident or incident report, please call the switchboard with your information and we will gladly email the report to you.
If you have civil papers you need served, they should be faxed, emailed or mailed to our office. For questions regarding civil service, please call 479-968-6634. Once service is complete, you will be billed for the service.
Warrants will be served over the phone by an officer. If you come into the lobby for warrant service, call 479-968-2558 and someone will assist you via phone.
If you wish to make an appointment for visitation with an inmate, you must use the kiosk in the lobby or schedule online at www.csgvisit.com
While we realize these actions may pose an inconvenience, we feel they are necessary considering the unknown scope of the Covid-19 virus. It is certainly our hope that this will be short-lived and we can resume normal business procedures in the very near future. Please be assured that our patrol and CID divisions are on the streets and operating as normal, 24/7, 365. Thank you for your patience and understanding as we implement these new office procedures.
On Monday, March 2, 2020, Pope County Sheriff's Investigators interviewed a male corrections officer in connection with alleged inappropriate interactions with a female inmate. The investigation began with the discovery of contraband by the corrections staff and further investigation lead to allegations of inappropriate contact. The male suspect was subsequently arrested by investigators, his employment was immediately terminated and he wa...s processed by jail staff. He will appear before Judge Don Bourne on Wednesday, March 4, 2020 for a bond hearing. No further information will be released pending formal charges.
Sheriff Shane Jones expresses his tremendous disappointment in the actions of this individual. He further stated that this type of behavior will not be tolerated by this administration and will not go unpunished. Sheriff's Department and Detention Center employees are expected to conduct themselves in a professional manner and anything less than that is unacceptable.
In the early morning hours of Saturday, February 8, 2020 Pope County Sheriff Deputies responded to the 1300 block of St. Joe Road on a rough terrain, fatality accident. Once on scene Pope County Coroner Danny White determined that the victim, 54 year old Tony Price, was deceased. Sheriff Jones would like to thank Arkansas State Police, Arkansas Game and Fish, Pope County EMS and EMS Rescue, as well as Pea Ridge Fire Department for their assistance on scene.
On Tuesday, January 21, 2020, at approximately 9:14 AM, Pope County 911 received a report of an individual walking down State Highway 105, near Avenue 3 Southeast in Atkins, armed with a handgun, exhibiting aggressive behavior, pointing the weapon at passing motorists.
An officer with the Atkins Police Department responded and made contact with the individual who immediately began firing at the officer. After the initial gunfire, the suspect fled on foot into a wooded area east of State Highway 105, where additional responding officers immediately set up a perimeter and began a manhunt for the suspect.
As officers encountered the suspect again, the suspect again fired at officers who returned fire, fatally wounding the suspect. No responding officers were injured during the incident.
The investigation into the incident has been turned over to the Criminal Investigation Division of the Arkansas State Police, who will present their findings to the Prosecuting Attorney of the 5th Judicial District. No other information will be released at this time.
On 1/14/2020 Pope County Sheriff's Deputies responded to Center Valley Grocery on a report of a possible disturbance. During the initial investigation once deputies arrived on scene, an adult female fled the scene. Deputies pursued the suspect and with the assistance of other local law enforcement, she was apprehended at approximately the 79 mile marker of I-40 and was subsequently transported to St. Mary's Emergency Department for injuries sustained in the pursuit. The suspect's name is being withheld pending the filing of formal charges. Sheriff Jones would like to thank the Arkansas State Police, Russellville Police Department, and Dover Marshall's Office for assisting in apprehending the suspect.
An Open Letter to the Citizens/ Taxpayers/ Voters of Pope County Regarding a New Pope County Justice Complex:
If you follow the happenings at the Pope County Sheriff's Office, then you know I have always tried to keep you informed about any issues or pertinent information involving the Sheriff's Office, and in keeping with that, I want to share information with you about a proposed new justice complex for Pope County.
Since around 2016 I have been telling our citizens and the members of Quorum Court that the Pope County Detention Center has been consistently at capacity or over capacity, and eventually we are going to have a crisis because of overcrowding. I have cautioned that we would have to consider building a new jail sometime in the near future. Well, that time has arrived. I believe it's important to share this information with you, the citizens of Pope County, who would be paying for a new justice complex through either a tax increase or the proposed bond initiative that the Quorum Court has decided to put before you the voters on the upcoming March 3rd primary election. Please know, I also live and pay taxes in our county, and I don't like the idea of having to pay more taxes to build a new detention center any more than you do, but I am telling you it is now imperative, with the growth of our area, that we increase our jail capacity sooner rather than later and because it's a major public safety concern. The Pope County Detention Center is used by every police department and court in the county to house detainees, both pre-trial and convicted.
The Pope County Detention Center was originally built in 1981 and an addition was constructed in 2000. The detention center currently is currently licensed for 172 detainees. During our last inspection, which is conducted yearly by The State of Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration Criminal Detention Facilities Review Committee, it showed that our daily average population was 200 detainees. Our detainee population has been at or over capacity since 2009.
Laws Regarding Jail Overcrowding by Mike Rainwater, Litigation Counsel for the Arkansas Association of Counties Risk Management Fund wrote: "Every jail has a constitutional max population." A case out of Sebastian County, Arkansas, set the national standard for maximum jail population. It is 43.3 square feet per detainee. This is the constitutional standard. Violating the constitutional standard is an actionable wrong, which means that a jail detainee who sues for violation of the 43.3 square feet rule will win a verdict against the jail." (Jail = County = Taxpayer)
Extended Overcrowding: Overcrowding or other jail conditions which subject detainees to genuine privation and hardship over an extended period that is not reasonably related to legitimate governmental jail objectives of maintaining order and ensuring security is unconstitutional "punishment."
It is important to realize that the constitutional limit (of 43.3 square feet per detainee) is a real limit for the total jail population.
Arkansas Jail Standards provide that all detainees have a right to humane treatment which provides for ... clean living quarters and a healthy, safe, and secure environment.
When the maximum limit is reached, it is time to seek overcrowding relief.
Since our last inspection conducted by the State of Arkansas Criminal Detention Review Committee, the committee requested that the Pope County Sheriff's Department organize and craft an Improvement Plan with respect to jail operations. The plan is due by December of 2020. The plan is to include a prompt action start date, as well as, a budget funding framework. In doing so, Pope County Judge Ben Cross and the Pope County Quorum Court have been diligent to the state's request. They established a jail committee, and have been working on ways to obtain this objective requested by the state. One of the objectives discussed by the quorum court was pertaining to Amendment 100, which the state passed to allow casino expansion in 4 counties in Arkansas; Pope County being one of them. Now I personally did not vote for Amendment 100, not because I was against casinos, but because I personally had issues with some technical flaws within the amendment; but the state voted, and it passed. After Amendment 100 passed, our state legislators passed Arkansas State Law ACT 703 for the explicit benefit of those 4 counties to issue bonds for infrastructure improvements at NO cost to the local tax payers. The Pope County Quorum Court agreed that we have a potential crisis with the detention center, and a major public safety concern, and needed to put a plan together. So on March 3rd , we the voters of Pope County, will have the opportunity to vote on this Justice Complex Bond Initiative. The complex will include a new sheriff's department and detention center doubling our current capacity. The facility will also include a 911 Center, Emergency Operations Center and 2 new Circuit Courts along with a Coroner Facility that Pope County does not currently have.
So, I know I have provided you with a lot of information, and I'm sure there will continue to be discussion's back and forth from those who are for and against the issue, but it is my hope that you understand that we have a potential crisis with our detention center and a major public safety concern. My opinion is if you were for or against the casino, I would rather have the casino pay for a new Pope County Justice Complex, then having to raise our tax dollars to pay for it.
I have included with this letter our latest inspection from Arkansas Criminal Jail Standards. Please feel free to review the document.
It is always an honor and a privilege to serve as your sheriff and I don't take that responsibility lightly. I pray that we can come together as a county and do what's right for the future.
Sheriff Shane Jones
On October 23, 2019 at approximately 10:00 AM, deputies and investigators with the Pope County Sheriff's Office responded to a possible death in the Pottsville area of Pope County. On deputies' arrival they located an adult male who appeared to be a victim of a farming related accident. Sheriff Shane Jones states that the name of the victim is not being released at this time, pending notification of family members. The victim was transported by Pope County Coroner Danny White, and will be sent to the Arkansas State Crime Lab positive identification.