POLICE NEWS: From Mayor Frank Scott Jr.

Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. this morning announced the lifting of the city’s 10 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew and also named members of a so-called independent review of the Little Rock Police Department.

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He also said he’d asked Gov. Asa Hutchinson that State Police numbers in Little Rock be reduced and that National Guard “transition” back to normal duties. He said the governor had agreed to do that. He said the governor’s executive order will remain in place, which allows him to take control of local policing if necessary to deal with civil unrest. The mayor wasn’t specific about how many State Police and Guard troops will be deactivated from Little Rock duty. The governor activated 570 Guard troops to keep the peace. An untold number of State Police have been on the ground and they’ve led the “unified command” Hutchinson established after a couple of nights in which officers used tear gas and pepper balls on crowds of peaceful protesters because of the acts of a few.

UPDATE: The news conference was followed almost immediately by news of deactivation of all 570 National Guard troops. The State Police also said that most of its out-of-town troopers had gone home.

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The curfew was first imposed last Sunday after a Black Lives Matter demonstration was marred by property damage following a Capitol demonstration. It was shortened to 8 p.m. after problems persisted, then lengthened Friday to 10 p.m. The mayor had said then he hoped to lift it entirely today. Demonstrations over the weekend were peaceful.

The review committee, which the mayor announced two weeks ago amid growing criticism of Chief Humphrey’s management, will look at policy and practices at every level of the department. Its members:

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Retired Michigan State Police Lt. Benny F. Bowers, who has returned to his native Little Rock.

Furonda Brasfield, a Little Rock lawyer.

Arkie Byrd, a Little Rock lawyer.

Paula Casey, a former U.S. attorney.

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John DiPippa, professor and former dean of UALR Bowen School of Law. (Correction: He is not retired as it said originally.)

Tameka Edwards, head of Philander Smith College’s social justice institute.

Michelle, Kaemmerling, a Little Rock lawyer.

Philip Kaplan, a Little Rock lawyer.

Dr. Terry Trevino-Richard, sociology professor emeritus at UALR.

They will work with a firm that does such reviews in producing a report. The mayor called it a “step toward forward change.” The review will cover not only management but also a review of rank-and-file. At his initial announcement, Scott said it was inspired in part by release of information critical of the chief, including of a police video of him visiting a woman who’d applied for a police-related job and whose personnel application also was disclosed. He said the work also will include such issues as de-escalation training.

He said the coronavirus epidemic had delayed meetings of the police citizens review board created and appointed earlier. But he said today it would be holding its first meeting soon to vote on bylaws and a chair. He also revealed it will begin its work with  a review of the police response to a complaint by two black people — Rep. Vivian Flowers (D-Pine Bluff) and legislative candidate Ryan Davis — who said they were threatened Feb. 3 by white residents while talking on the street in the Capitol View neighborhood.  Late in May, harassment charges were filed against two people in the confrontation.

Scott was asked about the “defund the police” movement, which has become a campaign theme for Donald Trump. “It does not necessarily mean to truly defund the police,” Scott said. Rather, he explained it is about reallocating dollars that have been spent militarizing the police to focus more on “justice from a community perspective.” That could include work on denouncing racism and fostering “more equitable and healthy lifestyles” and things that “help build overall community,” he said.

Scott observed that the U.S. rates of murder and acts of violence are higher than many countries that don’t spend as much on the militarization of police. He talked of sending more dollars to “equity policies” and noted he’d created a chief equity officer to work on equity in education, economic development and the community.

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(Good timing: Mother Jones on the billion-dollar industry that turned police departments into Seal Team Six wannabes.)

CHIEF KEITH HUMPHREY

The mayor called on Chief Humphrey to discuss potential police policy changes. They were:

  • POLICE SHOOTINGS AND DEATHS IN CUSTODY: He said he’d talked with State Police about taking ver over the review of such cases in Little Rock, rather than the police department reviewing itself. They haven’t reached an agreement yet, but he indicated progress had been made. The State Police often reviews police shootings in smaller cities. Humphrey said transparency was important and a third-party review will provide that.
  • USE OF FORCE: Humphrey said the department plans to modify its use-of-force policy, including addition of a duty-to-intervene policy. He said existing general rules may provide for that already, but now “we need to have clear-cut wording that they need to intervene when they see something that is not right — excessive force and misconduct.” Minneapolis has such a policy and officers didn’t step in to prevent George Floyd’s death.
  • COMMUNITY OUTREACH: Humphrey  wants to create a “Triple C Team” — a constructive  creative conversation team. It would be a diverse group, including people who’ve been incarcerated, poor people and police, to “help us get better.”

The chief praised the conduct of demonstrators over the weekend. He said police made six arrests last night, all for traffic violations. He acknowledged a demonstration underway this morning at the Northwest substation against a decision finding a recent police shooting justified. He didn’t identify the case, but indicated it had been reviewed for months and he was confident the correct decision had been reached. He said he understood a desire for people to speak out and said the police always could improve.

PS: Here are some ideas coming from Democrats in Congress.