Joseph Flaherty had a detailed account in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette this morning about Pulaski Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley’s unhappiness over remarks attributed to Police Chief Keith Humphrey about failure to prosecuting loitering arrests by police at street racing gatherings.

An account of a neighborhood association meeting with Humphrey and Mayor Frank Scott Jr. suggested Humphrey had faulted Jegly for failure to pursue the citations. A crime watch leader for the St. Charles Community Association wrote:

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“The Chief put a significant portion of the blame for [the department’s] failure to stop these groups on the prosecutor’s failure to prosecute citations issued by the [department]. There seems to be a clear disconnect between the Mayor/Police Chief and the prosecutor’s office.”

Jegley wrote a letter to the mayor saying the comment “disheartened” him. He said he had not moved ahead with prosecutions because those cited had not committed a crime, as defined in the loitering statute.

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“Make no mistake: My office did not ‘fail’ to prosecute — we refused because the law requires it,” Jegley wrote.

The article explained:

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Jegley quoted the text of the loitering law, which says a person commits the offense if he lingers in a public place or someone’s premises in a way that warrants concern for the safety of persons or property in the vicinity and if he refuses to identify himself to law enforcement officials and give “a reasonably credible account” of his presence.

“Because all of the people charged with Loitering were in a public place AND identified themselves to [police], this office could not in good faith prosecute them for Loitering,” Jegley wrote.

The police had no response yesterday to the story, previously reported by KLRT. This afternoon, the department issued a statement through spokesman Mark Edwards. It doesn’t directly dispute Jegley’s interpretation. It contains no quotes from Humphrey or the mayor. It said, briefly, the department would work with the prosecutor. It is no apology.

In recent months, the Little Rock Police Department has become aware of an increase in the incidences of street racing and caravanning. Since the department’s goal is to strive for transparency, we want to inform Little Rock residents that it has been our practice to combat this dangerous activity by writing citations and towing vehicles involved in these incidents. As a problem that is being experienced in
cities across the country, it will not be tolerated in the City of Little Rock.

At the Jan. 14 quarterly neighborhood meeting of the Northwest Patrol Division, Police Chief Keith Humphrey addressed the matter of street racing and caravanning. At that time, he stated that our Impact Detail has helped to curtail much of the activity; however, there remains frequent instances of cars and people loitering on public and private property. Of the nearly 1,200 citations written concerning
this issue, approximately 400 of those were observers who were loitering on private property — about half of which were written on the weekend of July 24 — the Prosecuting Attorney has stated that they are unable to be prosecuted in accordance with the text of the loitering statute. Meanwhile, there are nearly 800 other citations for street racing and caravanning that remain in effect currently awaiting court hearings or have already made their way through the court system. The LRPD has also impounded nearly 200 vehicles — all in our efforts to address these problems.

As these issues persist locally, we remain committed to researching and implementing policing strategies that will assist us in ensuring public safety. As such, the Little Rock Police Department and the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney will continue to work together for the good of the City of Little Rock, its residents and visitors. The city attorney’s office is drafting an ordinance to specifically address these issues.

I’ve sought further comment from the chief and the prosecutor. Is the chief NOT retracting or disputing the quoted remarks? Is he saying people on private property (often publicly accessible parking lots of shopping centers) SHOULD have been prosecuted?

I’ve asked Jegley, too, about the response. He said:

I stand on my previous comments and this office will continue to prosecute viable cases in the future, and will continue to work with the Little Rock City Attorney and Police Department to find effective solutions to all issues which diminish the Community’s quality of life.