Tuesday, August 28, 2012

TOP STORY >> New director of State Police is from Austin

Leader staff writer

An Austin man who has been with the Arkansas State Police for 27 years will become the agency director Friday.

Maj. Stan Witt, 55, replaces Col. J.R. Howard who came out of retirement in April 2011 to become the director.

“Stan Witt has a wealth of law-enforcement experience and will approach the role of director with the same even-handed manner that has earned him respect and admiration,” Gov. Mike Beebe said Monday when he announced Howard’s replacement. “His 27 years with the Arkansas State Police have made him an expert in policies, practices and procedures: knowledge that will serve him well as the leader of this great agency.”

Beebe called Witt “a trooper’s trooper. He’s worked in nearly every facet of the agency during his 27 years, and has shown his skills as an administrator time and again.”

Witt could not be reached for comment about his new position. Bill Sadler, agency spokesman, said Witt would be in the field for the rest of the week meeting with division heads, but that he was agreeable to interviews next week.

“I’m glad to hear it,” Austin Police Chief John Staley said of Witt’s appointment to the top police position in the state.

Staley said Witt was “a great guy” who helped his department last year when several cars were broken into. Catching the thieves was easier because of help from the state police, he said.

Witt has been in administration for five years, most recently as the Administrative Services Division commander. For the first seven years he worked in highway patrol and then he worked in criminal investigation for 15 years.

Witt began his law enforcement career in 1975 with the Walnut Ridge Police Department. He was 18 years old. For the next 10 years, he worked in various departments in northeast Arkansas including serving for a short time as the sheriff of Lawrence County.

Beebe called Howard his friend and he didn’t want him to resign. But he said he understands Howard’s desire “to go home to Searcy and spend more time with his family.”

Beebe is also from Searcy. “I’m joining him in a little more than two years,” said Beebe, who will be term-limited out of office.