Chief’s son resigns after ruling: State commission decertifies ESPD officer

Thursday, September 10, 2020

By Scott Loftis

A Eureka Springs police officer who joined the department less than a week after being fired from a similar position in Green Forest last year has resigned after being stripped of his law enforcement certification.

The state Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Training issued an order Thursday, Sept. 3, decertifying Austin Young, 24.

The order followed a hearing in Little Rock earlier that day regarding the circumstances of Young’s firing from the Green Forest Police Department on July 28, 2019, the day after Young reported that a fully automatic M-16 rifle and a police radio were stolen from his personal vehicle in Holiday Island. Green Forest police chief John Bailey said in May 2020 that Young had been drinking with friends at an area known as “The Pier” on Table Rock Lake and felt he was too intoxicated to drive, so he left his car overnight. The following day, Young returned to find his car had been broken into and the rifle and police radio had been stolen.

The CLEST order says the group of friends with whom Young was drinking included an underage female. The order says Young did not have permission to take the M-16 home.

The CLEST order is signed by commission chairman Robert Harrison, chief of the Texarkana Police Department.

Bailey said in May that Young was placed on administrative leave immediately and fired the next day after a meeting at the Green Forest Police Department.

The CLEST order says that approximately a week before the incident involving the stolen rifle, Bailey received a photograph of Young asleep in his patrol car and had received complaints from citizens of Young sleeping on duty.

The rifle that was stolen from Young’s vehicle had been issued to the Green Forest Police Department through the Arkansas Law Enforcement Support Office (LESO), the order says. As a result of the theft, the GFPD was suspended from the LESO program from July 29 through Dec. 18.

The rifle has never been recovered. Maj. Jerry Williams, chief deputy for the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office, said Tuesday that the sheriff’s office is still conducting an “open, active investigation” into the matter with the assistance of the FBI. An FBI spokesman in Little Rock said the bureau does not confirm or deny the existence of open investigations.

Austin Young, the son of Eureka Springs police chief Brian Young, was hired on a part-time, temporary basis by ESPD on July 31, 2019 — three days after he was fired in Green Forest. He was made a full-time officer on Nov. 25.

Austin Young, who was paid $15 an hour as a Green Forest officer, initially was paid $16 an hour in Eureka Springs. He received two pay increases by the end of February, increasing his salary to $17 an hour.

In May, Brian Young defended the hiring of Austin Young.

“I knew everything that was going on with the investigation, so I knew he didn’t do anything illegal,” Brian Young said at the time. “He violated the policy by not having the rifle double-locked, but there was nothing illegal in his actions.”

Brian Young went on to say his son was doing “a fantastic job” in Eureka Springs.

Amanda Yarbrough, legal counsel for CLEST, said Tuesday that the commission’s order means Austin Young is not eligible to work in law enforcement in the state of Arkansas. Austin Young, who was represented at the CLEST hearing by attorney Chris Flanagin of Eureka Springs, has 30 days from the date the order was issued to petition for judicial review in circuit court in either Carroll County or Pulaski County.

Brian Young said via email Tuesday afternoon that Austin Young “no longer works at the police department and no, I do not have any comments.”

Eureka Springs mayor Butch Berry said in an email that his understanding was that Austin Young had resigned his position.

Bailey and Green Forest mayor Jerry Carlton said Tuesday they had been advised by city attorney Clint Scheel not to comment on the matter.

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