Decertification proceedings initiated against former Little Rock officer over fatal pursuit


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Little Rock, Arkansas – The Little Rock Police Department has initiated a request to the state’s Law Enforcement Standards and Training Commission for the decertification of a former officer, Henry Topps. This follows his misconduct that was linked to a fatal incident involving a 12-year-old driver and a 14-year-old passenger in 2021. The decertification proceedings commenced after Topps’ resignation, which occurred during an investigation into the incident.

The Commission received the department’s request on March 30th, setting off the decertification process. Topps, who has been informed about these proceedings, has a period of 20 days to dispute the decertification and ask for a hearing. Failing to do so would result in the commission considering the department’s request without his involvement. This commission is a constituent part of the Division of Law Enforcement Standards and Training, which operates under the Arkansas Department of Public Safety.

The recommendation to decertify Topps came from Little Rock police officials, based on his actions during the incident in March 2021. The vehicle chase, which resulted in the death of Zayne Ortiz, was initiated by Topps despite an order to discontinue it. His actions were found to violate numerous department policies, and he was said to be dishonest about his acknowledgement of the direct order.

The future decertification of Topps is not certain, as the commission will have to deliberate on the issue. A timeline for this is not clear, but it is anticipated to be later this year.

In the midst of the chase, despite being aware that the vehicle was driven by a minor, Topps defied orders from his superiors to end the pursuit. He continued following the vehicle at high speeds and used his emergency lights and horn in a persistent attempt to halt the driver.

Although Topps admitted to having tunnel vision and being worried about a potential crash, his superior officer claimed that Topps’ account was dishonest. This was supported by evidence from Topps’ vehicle’s speed indicator and camera, which recorded him driving at speeds of up to 102 mph.

The decision to request Topps’ decertification came more than a year after his resignation, coinciding with media inquiries regarding Topps’ status. The Little Rock Police Department stated that the delay was an oversight, adding that there was no malicious intent behind the tardiness in their request.

In an internal investigation, it was found that there was a failure to notify the Mayor and the press about Zayne Ortiz’s death and details about the pursuit. This information was not disclosed until several months after the incident.

Officer Topps’ employment record, submitted to the commission, did not request decertification, leading to further questions about the situation. Topps’ involvement in the fatal pursuit was not publicly announced until the conclusion of the internal investigation.

The actions of Officer Topps during the fatal pursuit were initially hidden due to him not being fired or suspended. Nevertheless, some of the records related to the department’s review were later obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

The records revealed that one officer deemed Topps’ actions as unreasonable and directly contributing to the passenger’s death, describing Topps’ judgement as a liability to the city and its residents.

Although there was a recommendation to terminate Topps’ employment, it is unclear why this was not implemented. It was suggested that Topps, upon hearing about his potential firing, might have resigned to avoid termination.

The repercussions of the incident, involving the young driver of the stolen vehicle and the officers who pursued her, have had lasting effects on the victim’s mother. She criticized the department’s lack of action and care, and has expressed intentions to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the city and the police department.

Documents obtained from open records revealed that at the time of the fatal incident, both Topps and another officer, Joshua Thomas, were being investigated for their actions in a previous chase. Despite this, it seems that the repercussions from their actions in the fatal incident have yet to be fully addressed.


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