Faulkner County Road Police Officer Michael J. Bell was terminated from his position Thursday, according to Faulkner County Judge Preston Scroggin and Faulkner County Sheriff Karl Byrd.
Bell was accused of physical abuse two weeks ago by a 20-year-old female, who later dropped the charges. Earlier she had alleged Bell held a gun to her throat and hit her.
Bell’s commission as a law enforcement officer was taken away by Byrd, citing conduct issues. Because of that, Scroggin, who employs the Road Police, terminated him.
“[Bell] can no longer serve as a law enforcement officer,” Scroggin said. “I had no choice but to terminate his employment as his job was enforcing all kinds of road legal matters.”
Byrd said he was confident removing Bell’s commission.
“There has been conduct issues with him that I would not want to have associated with anyone in law enforcement,” Byrd said. His authority to take enforcement action was already very limited. I think his conduct is unacceptable.”
Byrd said that although Bell is employed by the county judge, the ability to use authority and enforcement on county roads is granted by the sheriff.
The Faulkner County Road Police Department was formed, according to County Attorney Allen Dodson, to regulate or ticket trucks associated with the natural gas industry, particularly in the north part of the county.
“I think it was envisioned that the department would grow, but as time went on I think that need has subsided,” Dodson said.
Bell issued citations for weight limit violations and can conduct other kinds of traffic stops, according to Dodson.
According to a closed case file obtained under the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act from the 20th Judicial District prosecuting attorney’s office, formal charges of third degree domestic battery and second degree assault against Bell were signed by a judge.
But the charges were not filed and a warrant for Bell’s arrest never issued, according to Prosecuting Attorney Cody Hiland, because the woman who brought the allegations cast doubt on her original statement.
“We submitted the domestic battery and assault in the second degree for the court’s signature but we received word that the victim had come to Vilonia Police Department and cast doubt on the legitimacy of some of her statement,” Hiland said. “We then interviewed the victim and she insisted that she didn’t want to move forward and indicated she didn’t know if what she told the officers initially was accurate.”
The allegations stem from an event that allegedly occurred on Aug. 31 at Bell’s residence in Vilonia.
Vilonia Police Chief Brad McNew said the woman did not say she lied during a police interview, but “she said she didn’t remember.”
“She read her original statement and didn’t know what was true,” McNew said.
Hiland said the case would not move forward without a credible witness statement.
“Obviously there was significant injury to the victim, and I’m confident she didn’t injure herself, but we can’t move forward without a witness or cooperating victim to provide evidence to support prosecution,” Hiland said.
Bell is the sole member of the Faulkner County Road Police Department, which has been under investigation by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The investigation centers on the purchase of five guns in 2008, including four AR-15 rifles and ammunition.
“Until I have time to look at replacing the position I will demand service from the sheriff on road legal issues,” Scroggin said.
Attempts to contact Bell were unsuccessful.
Log Cabin reporter Courtney Spradlin contributed to this report.