Arkansas State Police Senior Corporal David Smothers of Johnson County and Special Agent Matt Foster of Pope County were honored as the 2023 Arkansas Law Enforcement Officers of the Year at a luncheon hosted by Attorney General Tim Griffin on Dec. 12.
“The Officer of the Year Awards honor the bravery, service and unwavering commitment to others that law enforcement officers provide Arkansans every day through their noble and often thankless work,” Griffin said. “These two officers were responsible this year for saving a victim of human trafficking and bringing her trafficker to justice. Their courage, discernment and compassion led to a life being saved from a horrible circumstance.”
Smothers and Foster were nominated by Sgt. Chase Melder and Major Stacie Rhoads.
On July 10, Smothers conducted a traffic stop on a white Nissan Altima traveling west on I-40, due to the vehicle improperly displaying a rear license plate. While talking to the occupants of the vehicle, one male and one female, Smothers noticed a strong odor of marijuana coming from inside the vehicle and confronted the occupants. The male occupant confirmed there was marijuana within the vehicle.
While searching the vehicle, Smothers located 42 grams of marijuana, 0.8 grams of methamphetamine, multiple cell phones, and a fully automatic firearm. Additionally, sexual paraphernalia was found in the vehicle, including an unusual amount of lingerie; this led Smothers to suspect the female passenger was being sex trafficked.
Due to this suspicion, Smothers contacted Foster, who, according to Rhoads, had previously coordinated a “first of its kind within the state” victim-centered operation to combat human trafficking. Foster interviewed the female suspected victim and, after a lengthy interview process, was able to gather sufficient evidence that the woman had been trafficked across the country since February 2023.
For the full story see the Dec. 20 issue of The Graphic, found online or in businesses around Johnson County.
Photo: Arkansas Attorney General Tim Griffin (right) presented the 2023 Arkansas Law Enforcement Officer of the Year award to Arkansas State Police Special Agent Matt Foster (left) and Sr. Cpl. David Smothers, at an awards luncheon on Dec. 12. -Photo courtesy of the Office of Attorney General