West Memphis Police Chief retires amid changes in city administration

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WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. -- Chief Donald Oakes looked back on 26 years of service to West Memphis Police, the last seven as chief, as he attended his retirement luncheon Thursday.

“The transition in law enforcement has changed from being heavy enforcement to community outreach. All the agencies moving in that direction is a learning curve. We’ve done a good job in doing that that,” he said.

Oakes counted in-house police training as his biggest accomplishment. He said about three years ago they stopped sending new officers to the state academy and instead train them in West Memphis.

“You’re in a position from day one to teach police work is service. When you can do that, it leads to reduction in complaints, a much better police force,” he said.

He’s retiring this week at the same time as 20-year mayor Bill Johnson leaves office.

A bitter mayoral election divided the small Arkansas town. The outgoing chief says he has full confidence in Mayor-elect Marco McClendon.

“I am personal friends with mayor-elect McClendon. Hes been on city council 16 years. Hes been involved with the police department that entire time. There’s no reason for people to be concerned,” Oakes said.

McClendon chose current assistant chief Eddie West to take over the Police Department.

West said his leadership will offer both change and continuity.

“We’re going to continue doing our DETER program, do more community oriented policing and just take care of my guys," he said.

West takes over as chief Friday.

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