The Nov. 6 election is just days away and candidates are in the home-stretch with campaign efforts.
Among the local elections on the ballot Tuesday is Police Chief of Benton and Haughton. Each of the candidates have years of experience and a love for their town, but the decision is up to the voters as to who will win the race.
Benton Police Chief
Third generation resident Charles Pilkinton was hired to the police force in 1996 and has been Chief of Police since 2004. During his years on the force, Pilkinton said he has worked diligently to be fair and honest to the community he serves.
“Benton has come a long way since I started in '96 and it took quite some time for me to gain the trust of the people,” Pilkinton said. “People know they can come to me and not be turned away. They know I'll take care of the problem.”
While Benton continues to grow, Pilkinton said its small town charm is still the way he remembers it as a child. He would like to be reelected police chief in order to continue his efforts at keeping the town safe with help from his police officers and community members.
“It's a small community. It's definitely growing, but that hasn't changed who we are,” Pilkinton said. “The people make me want to be here. If I can help just one person in this town, that makes me feel so good.”
Also seeking the police chief position in Benton is Gene Hillen, who ran unsuccessfully against Pilkinton in the 2008 election. Hillen began working on the police force in 2000 as a patrolman and worked his way up through the narcotics department, a promotion to Sgt. Detective in 2006 and assistant police chief in 2008 before being elected constable in 2010, a position he still holds.
Hillen said he feels like he is best suited for the job because his track record “goes above and beyond the call of duty.”
“I feel that I can make a difference in the town of Benton,” Hillen said. “I'll be fair and partial with people. I'd like to make internal changes in the department and have a completely open door policy.”
For Hillen, the role of police chief is someone who is capable of enforcing the laws and regulations while being a leader for the community. If elected, Hillen said he will make sure the Benton Police Department goes by the policies and regulations required by the state.
“You have to lead by example,” Hillen said. “It's a small town so you can be more visible and vocal in the community.”
The Benton Town Council voted in March 2011 to fire Hillen, who was the Assistant Police Chief at the time. Hillen’s firing came after the Bossier/Webster District Attorney’s Office charged Hillen with felony theft (middle grade) after the Bossier Sheriff’s Office determined he allegedly stole over $500 from the proceeds of a July 2010 charity whiffleball tournament.
Hillen would not comment on case specifics because it is an ongoing case.
“I have not been convicted of anything at this time,” Hillen said. “I can't discuss anything going on with it.”
Haughton Police Chief
After eight years as police chief, Haughton resident Rodney Farrington is looking to add four more years to his service. Prior to serving as chief, Farrington was the assistant police chief for 5 years, constable for 13 years and has more than two decades with the police department on his resumé.
That experience, Farrington said, is one reason he hopes will get him reelected Tuesday.
“We have a great community out here and I have great supporters. The city council supports me and the members of our police force support me,” Farrington said. “I try to be fair with everyone and I want to keep it that way. I want to keep the town the way it has been and continue providing the citizens with a safe environment.”
If reelected, Farrington said he will use his position to continue working with his department and the community to ensure its still the safe community the people have lived in for many years.
“Most of the citizens I've talked to feel like our crime rate is low and we want to keep it low. We do have crime, but no place is exempt from it. In our situation, it's low.”
Farrington said the great thing about being police chief is having the authority and satisfaction of helping people.
“I'm a caring person more than anything,” Farrington said. “The feeling you get by helping people is such a great feeling.”
Farrington asks that the voters get out on Nov. 6 and take into consideration everyone's qualifications for the job.
Facing off against Farrington on the Nov. 6 ballot is Paul Sims, a law enforcement officer with 17 years experience. Sims said a goal for him as police chief would be to implement community outreach programs, including National Night Out and Neighborhood Watch.
“If I am [elected] chief, I'm going to put officers in all these neighborhoods that night where they can also get to know the officers,” Sims said. “What this does is help with communication between the public and the officers. This will build trust in our officers so they can come to them with problems.”
Sims said he wants to be police chief because he loves the town of Haughton and wants to see some changes.
“I see a lot of things not being done that should be done,” Sims said. “There are things that I can get done if I was chief of police. I see where improvements can be made to make it a safer place.”
Sims described himself as an honest man who spent eight years with in an “awesome department.” However, the former Haughton police officer was terminated in March this year for improper destruction of evidence and previous violations of policy and procedure.
Sims alleges he was discharged because it was made public he was running against Farrington. The decision to let Sims go came after the Town Council upheld Farrington's decision in a public hearing.
When asked to comment on his termination, Sims said it was “old news” and “most people know what happen.”
“It wasn't a policy violation as much as it was an officer judgement call,” Sims said. “If I had to make that decision all over again, I wouldn't change a thing. I'd do the exact same thing I did then.”
Farrington declined to comment on the situation due to an impending court case.
As police chief, Sims said he would use the title to be more involved in the community and listen to the demands of the people.
“I believe the police chief answers to the people. We work for the people and that's what I intend on doing,” Sims said. “This group of officers care very much about this community and I really think we can change things to make it even better.”