The Arkansas senate recently passed a bill to increase medical training requirements for physical fitness instructors after a Jonesboro police officer passed away while training in extreme heat at the state’s police academy.
House Bill 1458, also known as the Vincent Parks Act in honor of late Officer Vincent Parks, advanced to the Senate after receiving a unanimous 96–0 vote in the House and passed with a vote of 34–0 in the upper chamber.
Now, the bill will go to Governor Sarah Sanders’ desk to await her signature.
“There’s nothing that we can do that can bring Officer Parks back,” bill sponsor Representative Frances Cavenaugh said. “But I do believe it is our duty to make sure we learn from this tragedy.”
The bill would establish greater oversight on physical fitness instructors who train law enforcement officers, firefighters and Arkansas Game and Fish Commission officers by requiring them to receive certification to recognize and treat ailments such as dehydration, concussions and cardiac arrest.
The bill also aims to require instructors to train for environmental issues that can threaten health, such as by causing heat exhaustion or cardiac arrest.
The measure comes after Parks, 38, died after training for 25 minutes in severe heat. Authorities later determined that Parks died due to a combination of heat stress, sickle cell disease and physical exertion.
Initially, state officials wrongly stated that Parks had not engaged in physical activity before his death. The statement was corrected after nearly a month of inquiries into the death.
The Arkansas State Police also launched a criminal investigation but no action resulted.
Park’s attorney recently filed a complaint with the Arkansas Claims Commission against the Arkansas Department of Public Safety and training academy employee Joe Duboise, seeking $5 million in damages.
“Anyone who watches the videos of the last moments of Parks’ life knows it was not a lack of training that caused his death, but a lack of human decency, deliberate cruelty, and the bold indifference by ALETA instructors. This legislation is a small step toward helping future law enforcement officers in training. The next step is justice for Officer Parks’ family,” Parks’ family said in a statement after the bill’s passing.
According to the bill, physical fitness instructors would be required to remove cadets from training who show warning signs of an impending cardiac arrest, or who faint or lose consciousness during training.
That cadet or officer would then be barred from training until cleared by a licensed physician. “His death won’t be in vain,” Cavenaugh said. “I know his family would appreciate the recognition.”
Park’s husband, Christina, also attended the bill’s presentation at the House.
She said instructors should have recognized her husband’s warning signs earlier.
“There needed to be some protocols put in place to prevent this from happening, and there were none,” Parks said. “They should’ve recognized the signs prior.”
She said her husband always wanted to work in law enforcement.
“He wanted to make a difference in our community,” she said. “Jonesboro is a small southern town. In the back of his mind, he thought this could be bad. He also wanted to help re-establish trust in the community.”
“Anytime that you lose somebody in a training environment, it’s a senseless act. That’s exactly what happened to Officer Parks that day, which I believe could have been prevented,” Representative Mark Berry added.
Berry previously filed legislation to make hazing at the Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy a felony.
The bill did not progress after the academy promised to create its own policy on the matter.