LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The new Little Rock police chief said he has finally achieved something he set out to do in 1996 when he joined the police department.
Chief Heath Helton will take interim off his title with the new promotion to permanent chief. Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott, Jr. said in an introductory press conference on Wednesday that Helton was chosen out of a group of 48 applicants.
Having grown up in Little Rock, Helton has been with the department for more than 25 years. His family is also involved in law enforcement.
“We’re going to do exciting things in the coming years,” Helton said.
Scott said he offered the job Wednesday morning in a meeting at a local Starbucks. He said endorsements from the Fraternal Order of Police and Black Police Officers Association made a difference.
“Anytime you have the FOP and BPOA on one accord, that’s a good thing,” Scott said. “It’s a demonstration of our mission to truly be unified as a city.”
Helton said he will focus on community-oriented and data-driven policing. He also said the first step will be bringing together people in the city who have been looking for leadership. The city went through multiple interim chiefs after Keith Humphrey retired in May.
“There’s been tensions with the community and a lot of distrust, but I’m willing to listen,” Helton said.
Helton said he knew he wanted to achieve this goal since he first joined the department. He said his chief in 1996 asked new recruits what they wanted to do, and Helton responded with confidence.
“I remember telling him I want to be the chief one day,” Helton said. “Of course, a lot of people laughed, but here I am.”