Under the new administration of Hot Springs Village Police Chief, Kristi Bennett, the department held its first “Coffee with a Cop” on Tuesday, October 11, 2022. Previously the event was titled, “Coffee with the Chief.” Chief Bennett discussed her first 90 days on the job before HSV Dispatcher, Jenny Rabion gave a Smart 911 presentation. In addition, the Chief was also accompanied by Sergeant Brian Nichols.
Andrew Jones, Jr., of the Hot Springs Village Citizens’ Police Academy and retired Chicago, Illinois Police Officer, began the meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance before introducing the new police chief. Jones said, “The chief has been here almost 90 days now, and I am very impressed.” Jones said Chief Bennett’s actions match her words.
Bennett said she wants to provide the “best product possible from the Police Department,” and this is why it has taken a little bit of time to begin the “Coffee with a Cop” meetings.
Some Accomplishments in the First 90 Days
Chief Bennett said there are 20 officers and they are an incredible and amazing group. “They all do the job because they care about our community,” enthused Bennett.
The first 90 days have been spent assessing – seeing what we need at the police department, and how to do our job better, and be more efficient. “Through that assessment, we have learned a lot. We have learned there is a lot of work to be done when it comes to technology, but we’ve also learned that we are in a very good spot here in the Village. It is a great place to live and a great place to work, ” stated Bennett.
Bennett said being hired as the HSV Police Chief was her greatest career goal. “My greatest goal was to come home and to be able to serve here,” shared Bennett. Chief Bennett is originally from Jessieville, Arkansas. Bennett feels she is very blessed to have the position.
Bennett asked if anyone has seen a greater presence of officers in the Village lately and explained that she believes in being proactive in order to change behavior. Reactive police departments just answer 911 and respond to calls. “We believe the more that we are out there and the more we are seen, that we prevent those activities,” stated Bennett.
“We are not out there to write you a ticket. We don’t want to do that. We want to remind you that speeding is very dangerous. There is a reason why we have speed limits of 40 and 30 [mph] in the Village. It is because of the terrain and the roadways. We say that is the safest speed for you to travel.”
Bennett said she is not here to change everything. We already have a great police department. “I am just here to try to help make it better,” explained Bennett.
The officers have designed a new patch and badge, courtesy of the HSV Citizens Police Academy. There will be a Blessing Ceremony to celebrate the new badges and patches next Wednesday at 2:00. Click here to read about the Blessing Ceremony.
Arkansas Law Enforcement Accreditation Process (ALEAP) May Open Funding Opportunities
Chief Bennet said the department is beginning to navigate the accreditation process (ALEAP). “Here in Hot Springs Village, we are a stand-alone police agency. We are currently accredited by the Arkansas State Law Enforcement Standards and Training.
The accreditation process will give us the opportunity not only to be a proudly accredited agency but will also give us the opportunity to be eligible for some grants and funding for equipment, safety vests, etc. The safety vests the officers wear are only good for five years and cost about $1,600 each.
HSV Officers Each Received a $5,000 Stipend
Recently, Hot Springs Village Police Officers received a $5,000 stipend. In the 2022 Arkansas Legislative Session, the legislators began working on how they can assist police officers as Arkansas is the second lowest-paid state for police officer wages. In order to encourage retention and give the officers a little boost, the legislators passed Senate Bill 103 to provide Arkansas police officers with a $5,000 stipend. At first, only full-time municipal police officers were awarded the stipend. Then the program was expanded to include all police chiefs and specialized police forces such as police working on college campuses, etc. Hot Springs Village is considered a specialized police force. This inclusion occurred immediately before Chief Bennett’s arrival as the new HSV police chief. As Bennett was already visiting the Village police officers on weekends in order to get to know them, she heard about the change of rules for the stipend and encouraged the Village to apply for the program. The chief accredits HSV Sergeant Wayne Hill as the officer who applied for the stipend on behalf of the force. She said the process was a vigorous one and resulted in the Village police officers receiving $5,000 each in September.
Future Change of Venue
The “Coffee With a Cop” meetings are currently held in the Police Training Center located at 301 Balearic Road, but plans are being developed to relocate to the Coronado Community Center as the Balearic Road property has been listed for sale. The new location will also be for the training of Police Officers by the HSV Police Sergeants, who will obtain training certification. Providing this training on-site will be a cost saver.
The HSV Police Department is now providing support to Securitas, our gate management company. While we have gates, Bennett said, “this is not Fort Knox.” “We all have to work together to make sure we are using the most efficient process,” stated Bennett.
Attendee Input Will be Sought
At the next “Coffee With a Cop” meeting, participants will be given the opportunity to fill out a form with topic ideas for future meetings. The topic does not necessarily need to be about the police department. It could also be POA related as the meetings are for learning about the community and learning how to be better.
When introducing Dispatcher, Jenny Rabion, the Chief said dispatchers are often unsung heroes. “They are the lifeline – the voice on the other end of the line,” said Bennett. Bennett said that HSV Dispatcher Rabion is the very first speaker at “Coffee with a Cop”.
Dispatcher Rabion came to the Village from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Dispatch two years ago. She was with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department for 13 years.
Dispatcher Jenny Rabion Talks About Smart 911
911 is a nationwide, single number for reporting emergencies and crimes in progress. Smart 911 is a free resource, open to everyone. You can register with your cell phone or your landline or both. “If you have more than one person in the household, you can enter several people in the same profile,” said Rabion. The information entered will then pop up for the dispatcher if you call 911.
Once you have registered for 911, you will create a safety profile. Your safety profile can include whatever information you deem to be appropriate and important. “It can be as detailed or as basic as you like,” said Rabion. Some of the information you can include are your vehicles, medical conditions, hospital preference, emergency contacts, other household members, emergency key locations, pets, medications, and garage door codes,” explained Rabion.
When you call from a phone number registered to your safety profile, the Smart 911 system will recognize your phone number, and your profile is displayed on the dispatcher’s screen. This is helpful in an emergency situation where you may be panicked and not thinking clearly.
All 911 calls are routed to the Police Department. Once the dispatcher determines your location and needs, you may be transferred to a medical provider, which in the Village is LifeNet. Your Smart 911 profile is also transferred to LifeNet.
Even if you are away from home, your Smart 911 profile information will be available to the emergency providers where you are located, if you call 911.
You can opt-in to receive alerts from the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management and County Emergency Management (depending on which county you reside in). You have the option of sharing your information with local Emergency Management so they may be better prepared to respond to disasters.
Your information is secure and never sold. It is only shared in emergencies.
Your profile must be accessed every six months in order to keep it active or the account will be suspended. Your account can be reactivated at any time. You can also delete your profile at any time.
Of note, if you deactivate your telephone’s ability to transmit your location and you are not able to tell the dispatcher your location, it may be difficult for the first responders to find you. When in the Village, always tell the dispatcher which county you are in, and that you are in the Village, so if your call should end up with a dispatcher outside of the Village, it can be transferred to an HSV dispatcher. Also, be sure to clarify if your address is a lane, drive, etc. as there are many addresses that are similar.
The Hot Springs Village Police Department strongly encourages everyone to sign up for Smart 911. Click here to sign up for Smart 911. – wwwsmart911.com
Written by Cheryl Dowden; Photography by Joe Dowden