Governor Hutchinson has announced the resignation of Jami Cook as secretary of the Department of Public Safety and director of the division on Law Enforcement Standards and Training. From the release:

In Secretary Cook’s resignation letter to Governor Hutchinson, she states she will step down after battling multiple health issues. She states she will be following her doctor’s advice to “slow down” and focus on her health.

“Since the day I met Jami, I have known her to be a passionate public servant who cares deeply about serving the citizens of Arkansas,” Governor Hutchinson said. “She has spent her professional life supporting those in law enforcment and leading the creation of the new Department of Public Safety. Her efforts have been historical and transformative. I value Jamie’s friendship and service.”

Cook, who began a career in law enforcement as a Newport police officer in 1994, became director of the standards division in 2015 by Hutchinson appointment. She had been State Police program director.

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She rose to her current job, which includes supervision of the State Police, Department of Emergency Management, the Arkansas Crime Lab and the Arkansas Crime Information Center, in 2019, when Hutchinson reorganized state government into fewer departments.

The consolidated divisions didn’t always mesh smoothly, with previously autonomous agencies placed under the supervision of others..

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Hutchinson hasn’t announced a successor. The news release included a statement from Cook:

“I am profoundly grateful for the opportunity that Governor Hutchinson afforded me to serve the state of Arkansas,” Secretary Cook said. “It has been a great privilege to work for this state and we have worked diligently in our mission. I am so very thankful that our paths crossed almost eight years ago.”

The resignation follows the death Sunday of Vincent Parks, 38, in an agency under Cook’s umbrella. The Jonesboro police officer died during a training course at the Central Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy. Cook issued a news release after his death saying, “it seems unjust that a man like Officer Parks, who was prepared to sacrifice for his community, be taken from his calling.”

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It was reported that Parks was in medical distress before a planned exercise regimen but suffered cardiac arrest after being taken to an ambulance.

Jonesboro Police Chief Rick Elliott said he was an old friend of Cook and sure the training tragedy didn’t play into her decision to resign. He said she had assured him there’d be a thorough review of what happened Sunday and the process was underway. He confirmed that four other Jonesboro recruits had dropped out of the program and will take training at another site in August, but he said this was a  reaction to the “trauma” they’d suffered through the loss of a colleague with whom they’d bonded.

A more likely source of tension that could have contributed to Cook’s departure is that with State Police, where differences have been reported in the views of Cook and Col. Bill Bryant, director of the agency now answerable to Public Safety.

 

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