Arkansas Gov.-elect Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Monday announced her first cabinet appointment, tapping a current Arkansas State Police troop commander to be her public safety chief.
Sanders said she would nominate Capt. Mike Hagar, the State Police’s Troop A commander, as secretary of the Department of Public Safety. He will concurrently serve as the director of the Arkansas State Police.
The newly elected Republican governor-elect noted that announcing her public safety pick first reflected her administration’s priorities. She continued using similar language as she did during the campaign, saying that “out of control crime” was attacking cities left and right and the “far left” has demonized law enforcement.
“Captain Mike Hagar is the right person to help me build a safer, stronger Arkansas as the incoming Secretary of Public Safety and Director of State Police,” Sanders said. “As violent crime is on the rise and deadly, illegal drugs are flooding our communities, now more than ever we need a strong, experienced leader who will be tough on crime – and I am confident that Captain Hagar is that person.”
Monday’s announcement is the first of 15 cabinet-level appointment Sanders will make as governor. In 2019, Gov. Asa Hutchinson led an effort to reorganize state government into 15 cabinet-level agencies, and cabinet appointments have rarely been challenged by the state Legislature.
The Department of Public Safety includes the State Police, Commission on Law enforcement Standards and Training, Division of Emergency Management, Crime Information Center and the State Crime Lab.
State Police are best known for the troopers of the Highway Patrol Division seen on the roadways enforcing traffic laws, but the agency also includes a Criminal Investigation Division and Crimes Against Children Division. State Police detectives often are asked to investigate police shootings and other high-profile crimes, particularly in rural parts of the state.
Under Hutchinson, State Police have also been asked to help local law enforcement agencies take proactive steps to tackle spurts of high crime around Little Rock and Pine Bluff.
Hagar has worked for the State Police for more than 26 years and has been the Troop A commander since 2017. The Troop includes 70 uniform and non-uniformed staff and covers Pulaski, Faulkner, Lonoke and Saline counties.
Prior to taking over Troop A, Hagar spent 14 years on Executive Protection Detail, protecting the governor, the governor’s immediate family and the Governor’s Mansion.
In 2019, former President Donald Trump announced his intent nominate Hagar to be the U.S. Marshal for the Eastern District of Arkansas. The nomination stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee after the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Hagar, in response to questions on Monday, said he didn’t have many specific changes or needs to share, but he said a strong focus will be on recruitment and retention.
“Arkansas has a serious crime problem, and I am ready to get to work on day one addressing it,” Hagar said. “Governor-elect Sanders has the right vision to bring safety back to our communities, and I’m honored that she has chosen me to be the next Secretary of Public Safety and leader of the brave men and women who make up the Arkansas State Police.”
The question of whether state and local police resources should be used to enforce federal immigration has long been debated. Asked about the issue on Monday, Sanders said nothing is ever “off the table” when it comes to protecting Arkansans.
Hagar will replace current Public Safety Secretary A.J. Gary. Sanders said Gary will remain in her administration, staying as the director of the Division of Emergency Management, the position he held before being appointed secretary.
More cabinet appointments are expected to be announced in the coming days.
Sanders declined to answer a question about Trump’s recent comments about the “termination” of the U.S. Constitution over his lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. She said her focus on Monday was strictly on Arkansas and her public safety appointments.