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Fort Smith police captain selected Van Buren chief

Longtime officer has roots in city, mayor says

Fort Smith veteran police Capt. Jamie Hammond will take over as Van Buren's police chief when longtime Chief Kenneth Bell steps down June 30.

Hammond, who is assistant commander of the investigation division, has been a member of the Fort Smith Police Department for nearly 26 years. He calls Van Buren his hometown.

He and his wife Paige, a Van Buren schoolteacher, have two sons in Van Buren schools. He has been a member of the Van Buren School Board for eight years and is a firefighter for the District 5 Volunteer Fire Department.

Van Buren Mayor Bob Freeman announced Hammond's appointment this week. His hiring followed months of interviews with several applicants.

Freeman said in a news release he was pleased about Hammond's selection, saying Hammond has the experience, dedication and skills to lead the department.

"We are fortunate that Jamie already lives in Van Buren and is an active member of the community as is evidenced by his service on the School Board," Freeman said. "He takes over a highly experienced and professional department."

Bell has worked at the Van Buren Police Department since 1985, starting out as a patrol officer. He was appointed police chief in 2001 after the death of Mason Childers.

Bell took over the department during a period of growth in Van Buren. The population increased from more than 19,000 in 2000 to nearly 23,000 today.

He counted among his accomplishments the construction of a new, more spacious police headquarters that opened in March 2015 and the development of a firearms-training range that not only benefits the Van Buren department but is used by other law enforcement agencies in the area.

Bell said he plans to work in real estate after leaving the Police Department.

Retiring on the same day as Bell will be another longtime department veteran, Capt. Anthony Kaman, who has been a member of the force since 1984. Kaman is past president of the Van Buren Police Officers Association, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 52.

Bell said he and Kaman entered into the state's Deferred Retirement Option Plan in 2010 in which they agreed to retire after seven years and receive, in return, certain accrued benefits.

The Van Buren City Council voted Monday to let Bell and Kaman keep their department-issued sidearms when they retire.

NW News on 05/19/2017

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