LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas State Police on Friday announced a new ethics policy for troopers who provide security for a college athletic programs.
Under the policy, the troopers can no longer accept free tickets from the athletic programs. They also cannot accept any gift with a value that exceeds the $100 limit set by state law, said State Police spokesman Bill Sadler.
Also, troopers can only provide security while they are on duty and must be paid only their regular state salary.
Sadler said the policy appears to be the first of its kind in the country.
"From what we can determine this is one of the first policies like this among state police departments across the country to address how troopers interact with athletic teams during those assignments ," Sadler said of the policy, which took effect Friday.
The policy is in response to information that came to light after Arkansas Razorback football coach Bobby Petrino was involved in a motorcycle wreck on April 1. State Police Capt. Jeffrey Lance King, who provided security for the University of Arkansas’ athletic program, transported Petrino to a hospital after the wreck.
Athletic Director Jeff Long later fired Petrino after the head football coach admitted he had been in an inappropriate relationship with a female employee, who also was involved in the wreck.
It also was later revealed that King, who also is a state police troop commander in Northwest Arkansas, had accepted game tickets and a Sugar Bowl ring worth a total of $4,085 over a two-year period from the athletic program.
King filed an ethics complaint against himself in order to obtain an opinion on whether the gifts were legal.
The Arkansas Ethics Commission in late June found probable cause to believe King violated the law by accepting the gifts, saying that state law prohibits public servants from accepting gifts outside of their salary and benefits for performing their duties.
The Ethics Commission issued King a letter of caution.
Sadler said the new ethics policy also requires the troopers to limit their assignments to law enforcement activities only and to avoid any activity that may present an appearance of being part of the athletic team.
Another change under the new policy is that state police sergeants, rather than the highest-ranking officers, will now be given first consideration for the security detail assignments.
"I don’t think you are going to be seeing a troop commander back out on the field," Sadler said. "It will no longer be a permanent assignment. It will be passed around among field supervisors."
The department has taken disciplinary action against King for his accepting the gifts, but Sadler declined to reveal any details, saying it did not include termination, suspension or demotion and therefore was exempt from the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act.
"There was job action taken," he said. "It did not rise to affirmative job action."