Arkansas sets policies for troopers

A new policy unveiled Friday bars Arkansas state troopers who work college sports events from accepting free tickets or other items if the value would exceed limits set by state law.

The policy comes several months after a trooper assisted former Arkansas football coach Bobby Petrino following a motorcycle crash with his mistress and the subsequent revelation that the trooper had accepted gifts from the Razorbacks athletic program.

Under the policy distributed to officers Friday, troopers must follow state ethics laws regarding gifts and can provide security only when they are on duty. They may be paid only their regular state wage and any token of appreciation must not be excessive.

Arkansas law generally forbids public employees, officials and other state workers from accepting gifts valued at more than $100.

The school fired Petrino after discovering he had given money to the woman on his motorcycle and helped her obtain a university job after they had an affair.

Petrino called Capt. Jeffrey Lance King after crashing a motorcycle during an outing with the woman, Jessica Dorrell. King took Petrino to a hospital and in the ensuing days revealed that he had received $3,111 worth of gifts from the Razorbacks program, including game tickets and a Sugar Bowl ring worth $225. King reported himself to the state Ethics Commission, which proposed a letter of caution to the trooper.

State Police spokesman Bill Sadler said that until Friday, the agency did not have a formal policy on how troopers should handle requests to provide security for university sports teams and coaches.

According to the document, when a request comes in, troop commanders should ensure an officer can work a game without interfering with other police operations. On game days, the troopers can wear their uniforms and must provide security only, avoiding actions that would make it appear they were part of the team.

They also cannot use police cruisers to transport team members unless there is a need to provide extra security or emergency transport.

The state police director must authorize trips out of state. Department vehicles cannot travel out of state, and any travel expenses, including meals and lodging, must be paid by the school. When Arkansas is at a road game, any trooper accompanying the team cannot wear a team logo.

Under state law, troopers are required to provide protection for agencies, universities and other events on public property if they aren’t needed elsewhere.

The University of Arkansas issued a written statement thanking the agency for establishing a written policy. It declined comment on why it gave the troopers gifts to begin with.

The sight of state troopers alongside coaches on game day is common around the Southeastern Conference in particular. Some officers travel to away games, a cost paid for mostly by the schools.

At LSU, the state police escort began back in the late 1970s when Jerry Stovall was coach. LSU compensates the trooper assigned to coach Les Miles for any hotel rooms and travel expenses, which was a common arrangement according to responses to the AP last April from police in Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina.