by Max Brantley
A tough column this week by Steve Barnes on the case of Andrew Rhew, the trooper who resigned after a DWI in Missouri last weekend. He'd been fired earlier as a result of a fatal crash while on duty, but reinstated by the State Police Commission at the instigation of Wallace Fowler, the powerful and wealthy Jonesboro banker.
So now it's the seven Arkansas State Police commissioners with egg on their faces, one, I suspect, in particular. Having twice engineered the reinstatement of a trooper fired by two consecutive directors of the agency, he and his compatriots might consider the possibility that the ASP's commanders had it right all along.
Alas, they probably won't. They will be too busy polishing the badges they should not be carrying and chatting on the State Police radios they should never have been issued.
... The unanimous vote by the commission to overturn a personnel decision by its top executive was not merely a countermand but a reprimand, effectively a vote of no-confidence in the judgment and managerial skills of a leader who had assumed his position only weeks earlier. Howard's 30-plus years as a certified law enforcement officer and the decades of experience of his deputy commanders — not to mention state law, the ASP's manual of rules and regulations and the testimony of the agency's investigators — were deemed unconvincing when pitted against the territorial prerogatives ASP commissioners have traditionally claimed.
Minutes of the commission's meetings make clear that the driving force behind Rhew's reinstatement was Commissioner Wallace Fowler of Jonesboro, a wealthy businessman and philanthropist, who represents what was Rhew's district. Indeed, the documents show Fowler, an appointee of Gov. Beebe, was perturbed that Rhew was even suspended with pay, notwithstanding the felony charges then pending against him. "He should never have been fired," Fowler declared in a February session.
Barnes suggests the commissioners resign. They'll get another moment in the light when, by lawsuit or state claim, the family of the woman killed in the crash with Rhew wins a seven-figure verdict in the case.