Judge Wendell Griffen today ordered the Little Rock police department to turn over “use of force” documents concerning Lt. David Hudson. Hudson was filmed on video while working as a private security guard at Ferneau restaurant. He repeatedly hit a customer, Chris Erwin, in the face.
The city of Little Rock earlier had contended it had provided Erwin’s lawyer, Keith Hall, all it was required to provide under the Freedom of Information Act. I tended to agree and am happy the judge finds otherwise. My understanding of the FOI was that a 1987 amendment had put personnel records off limits unless they formed a basis for suspension or firing. Hudson has neither been suspended nor fired for use of force.
Griffen, however, ruled differently after privately reviewing other documents provided by police. He ruled that “use of force” documents officers are required to submit amount to public records of performance of official duty. As such, they are not personnel records and should be released.
According to Griffen’s order, Hudson has prepared such reports four times, including in the beating of Erwin. The others were Oct. 30, 2009 in the arrest of Ralph Jackson; Dec. 18, 2006 in the arrest of Jay Parks, and Feb. 7, 2011 in the arrest of Chase Cooper. David Koon reported earlier on the Cooper case. Like Erwin, he was the subject of force used by Hudson at Ferneau, was injured and was charged with disorderly conduct. His arrest wasn’t captured on video, however.
I’ve asked the police and city attorney’s office if they will appeal the ruling or turn over the documents. Here’s a copy of the judge’s order.
UPDATE: City Attorney Tom Carpenter said he had not seen the order yet, but he was “sure” the city would appeal.
This could be a landmark in the making if Griffen is upheld. It would open the door to an ability for the public to conduct a useful inquiry: How often do police officers, in Little Rock or elsewhere, use force in arrests? Are some officers more prone to use force than others? What are the outcome of cases in which officers use force?