By Jennifer Joyner
Arkansas police officers might be offered voluntary exemption from jury duty if a bill, proposed[more] by Saline County leaders, passes through the 2013 General Assembly.
“This will help us tremendously,” said Bryant Police Chief Mark Kizer. This is a situation that happens at least once or twice a year at the Bryant Police Department.
Saline County Circuit Clerk Dennis Milligan said officers are almost never selected to serve because most lawyers do not want them on the jury. The proposed legislation would, therefore, enhance public safety and would save taxpayers money in a number of ways, he said.
First of all, potential jurors are paid $25 a day to attend jury selection, Milligan said. If the potential juror is a police officer, who has very little chance of getting picked, that is waste of the government’s money. Also, the department then has to bring on someone to work that person’s shift, and, in smaller towns, especially — where there are fewer officers on staff — that often means paying someone overtime, another unnecessary expense, he said.
These situations also might mean the town will be left unprotected for a period of time. If the police department is very small, there is sometimes no one to cover the shift while his fellow officer attends jury selection.
“It’s an easy way to enhance protection without any additional expense,” said Shannon Hills Mayor Mike Kemp.
Saline County Sheriff Bruce Pennington was among the those who commended Milligan and Hutchinson for coming up with the legislation, along with Kemp and Kizer, who recently spent four days on a jury selection.
“It’s a common sense solution,” Kemp said. “It’s amazing nobody thought of it before.”
There has not been public opposition to the bill.
“I think it will pass,” said State Senator Jeremy Hutchinson.
The federal system and a number of states, including California and Virginia, exempt law enforcement officers from jury service. The initiative already has support at the Capitol.