Today I want to thank two men who have served the Arkansas State Police for many decades, and who are both dedicated public servants of Arkansas.
Four years ago, I asked Colonel Winford Phillips to leave retirement and return to the Arkansas State Police as its Director. I felt that his long career with the State Police would make him an ideal candidate to lead this crucial state agency, and I was right.
During his tenure as Director, Colonel Phillips oversaw the implementation and integration of technology to improve the safety of both the Troopers and the people of Arkansas. Perhaps his most lasting contribution to the Arkansas State Police will be the passage during this year's legislative session of a new law that secures current and future retirement pensions for our Arkansas State Police Troopers.
Win's record of service to the people of Arkansas has been exemplary, and I wish him a happy return to his well-deserved retirement. To continue the Colonel's high standards and effective leadership, I have appointed JR Howard as the new State Police Director. JR has already served the Arkansas State Police for more than 30 years, beginning as a highway patrolman in 1971 and eventually as director of the Western Criminal Investigation Section. He would later be selected to lead the Arkansas State Crime Lab, and to serve as U.S. Marshal for Arkansas's Eastern District.
Colonel Howard has always been known for his commitment and perseverance in all of his endeavors. He is someone who never closed a case until it was resolved. His tenacity even helped him solve a case 25 years after the crime was committed.
When then-Trooper Howard was assigned to Sebastian County, Colonel Phillips was his Sergeant, and coincidentally, both men hail from Madison County. This change of leadership feels like a natural transition for the State Police. I am confident of JR's ability to continue the positive growth and development that Colonel Phillips brought about during his tenure.
I am grateful for the leadership and dedication of these two fine men, who have devoted their lives to making Arkansas a safer place. Police work requires officers to put the safety and well-being of others ahead of their own, and sometimes that requires tremendous sacrifice. This week, the people of Trumann and all Arkansans are mourning the loss of a brave, young police officer killed in the line of duty. News accounts indicate that one of Officer Jonathan Schmidt's last acts before a gunfight took his life was to push his partner to safety. Last year, the 30-year-old Schmidt was decorated for saving the life of an infant by using CPR. He exemplified the finest traits of Arkansas's law-enforcement community: Loyalty, bravery and a selfless devotion to duty.
The thoughts and prayers of all Arkansans are with Officer Schmidt's family, friends and the members of the Trumann Police Department. We will always remember his courage, along with the courage of all law-enforcement officers who stand to protect us.