Nine Pine Bluff police officers returned their Medals of Valor on Thursday after the city council directed scrutiny over why they were awarded. KUAR’s Jacob Kauffman spoke with council member Thelma Walker about a police shooting and the death of a 107-year-old man.
KAUFFMAN: Just over three years ago, the Pine Bluff Police Department responded to a call of a dispute in the residence of 107-year-old Monroe Isadore. The centenarian was in an argument after being told he should move to an assisted living center. Hiding in his bedroom, Isadore responded to the police by firing a handgun through his door. Police later called in a SWAT team, managing to get a camera on the holed up Isadore, but deciding to intervene –with force if necessary – after only a short time officers shot and killed Isadore in his residence. Pine Bluff City Council member Thelma Walker joins me on the line. Thanks for your time.
WALKER: My pleasure.
KAUFFMAN: While we just passed the 3 year anniversary, the reason we’re speaking now, is because 12 police officers – who had been awarded Medals of Valor for the standoff – are turning in their accolades back to the city. This was prompted by a vote taken by the City Council. Miss Walker, why did you get involved in this issue? Obviously it’s unusual to ask for commendations to be returned to the city.
WALKER: This whole situation about the medals is unusual. I have never heard of a medal being awarded to a person for killing a 107-year old person in their own home. That’s the unusual part. The next unusual part to me is to get a medal of valor when the police department rule states a medal of valor is given for a person that saves someone’s life at the risk of their own life. I don’t even see how it was in order.
KAUFFMAN: Regarding the appropriateness of the use of force in this instance. A federal lawsuit on the police department found the police did no wrong. A special investigation concluded the officers acted according to protocol. So, if the officers followed policy, what insights have you gained about how the Pine Bluff department operates, what their attitudes are? Even if they acted according to protocol do you now have advice for them about what protocol should be like in the future?
WALKER: The Pine Bluff community is in outrage and they was in outrage when it happened. They were very, very upset that it came back up and wanted to know why would a person get a medal for killing a 107-year old man? Who could be proud to say I have a medal of valor and then you ask, ‘oh that’s great, what did you do?’ ‘Well, I killed this 107-year old man.’
KAUFFMAN: Looking at the Pine Bluff Police Department, they say they followed their policies. Are you asking them to change their policies?
WALKER: Well, I think if they followed the policy I would like for them to show that policy to you and me and they didn’t even follow the policy in rewarding the awards. If a person is to receive an award they are to receive it within January and December of that year and that happened in ’13. We are in ’16.
KAUFFMAN: What happened with the shooting and with the medals being awarded was something that happened with full knowledge and support of higher ups in the police department, it wasn’t just officers there at the scene. What does that say to you about Pine Bluff’s police department?
WALKER: Well, it really does not say a lot because the leadership is the one that had to initiate it and none of the laws about the medal was followed. I FOI’d some information about the procedure and minutes of the meeting and he had no records at all.
KAUFFMAN: Pine Bluff city council member Thelma Walker thanks a lot for your time today and walking us through these issues.
WALKER: I tell you, it’s not good and it’s bringing our city down. It’s bringing the image of our city down. Pine Bluff does have a lot of good Christian people. But for people that don’t live here and don’t know anything about Pine Bluff, when they read this they think Pine Bluff is the worst place in the world to be. Maybe soon, maybe next year we can move forward and try to get back the good image of Pine Bluff that it was once.
KUAR has offered Mayor Debe Hollingsworth, the Pine Bluff Police Department and Chief Jeff Hubanks the opportunity to comment on this story. So far, they say they are declining media requests on the matter.