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When the Little Rock civil-service commission ruled to overturn an officer's suspension Thursday, they gave the Little Rock Police Department a directive: Make sure officers are on the same page when it comes to domestic violence arrests.

After voting unanimously to overturn Sgt. Derrick Threadgill's suspension Thursday, commissioner James Hudson turned his attention to the Police Department.

"It's clear there is a question on the interpretation of some domestic violence policy," Hudson said. "I would ask the department to make sure everyone has the same operational understanding of the statutes."

On Friday, Little Rock interim Chief Hayward Finks said he plans to meet with City Manager Bruce Moore to discuss exactly where the confusion lies and how best to rectify it.

The Police Department suspended Threadgill in 2017 in part because he did not arrest a man on the charges his supervisors thought necessary, according to testimony during the eight-hour hearing. But time and time again Threadgill pointed to specific general ordinances and department rules that supported his actions and, ultimately, the commission found that the city did not prove dereliction of duty.

Throughout the hearing, which took two days on Oct. 11 and Thursday, officers gave conflicting testimony about what Threadgill should have done during a disturbance on Dec. 22, 2016.

Two years ago, a woman told police her intoxicated ex-husband threatened her with a gun, assaulted her and threatened to kill her. Officers found no evidence of physical harm and no witnesses to corroborate the woman's allegations, though they did find a handgun in the man's pocket.

The man was arrested on a charge of public intoxication and an existing warrant and taken to the Pulaski County jail, according to testimony. Threadgill said removing him from the situation long enough to cool down eliminated the immediate danger to the victim.

Many of his supervisors, however, including former Police Chief Kenton Buckner, said Threadgill should have charged the man with aggravated assault on a family or household member.

Multiple other officers testified that it's against department policy to interview a drunken man and, without witnesses or physical proof of harm, there wasn't enough probable cause to arrest the man on such a serious charge.

Domestic violence arrests are a near-daily occurrence for the Police Department, officers testified, and unchecked abuse only worsens.

"We see calls like this every day," said Lt. Brian Grigsby, one of the officers who testified during the hearing.

That trend is seen across America, with one in four women and one in seven men reporting extreme physical violence from an intimate partner, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Arkansas ranked No. 4 this year in the number of women killed by men, according to an annual study produced by the Violence Policy Center that analyzes homicide data in the United States.

And nationally, 40 percent of all female homicide victims are killed by intimate partners and approximately 16 percent of all homicides are domestic, according to the CDC.

If the crime is a prevalent one, and if the danger only increases if unimpeded, then a discrepancy in how officers handle a potentially violent abuser could put victims in danger.

Rectifying that discrepancy is important, Hudson said, because the Little Rock Police Department takes an aggressive stance on domestic violence.

Repeatedly throughout the hearings, the civil-service commissioner asked officers whether the department held an "if you can charge, then you should charge" mentality as it relates to domestic violence -- and officers said yes. Arresting the aggressor, Grigsby said during the hearing, ensures the victim is safe at least until the person is released.

"It's historically an under-reported crime, and we have to enforce these laws," Hudson said. "There was lots of misunderstanding and confusion in the testimony. At least in some of the officers' minds, there was a question of 'When do I charge in domestic violence cases?' I do expect the Police Department to eliminate any confusion."

Hudson said officers could undergo additional training to ensure that everyone was "on the same page when it comes to domestic violence cases."

Finks agreed Friday that domestic violence is an important and sensitive subject and said the department intends to ensure its procedures are being properly understood and enforced.

"I have spoken with the city attorney, and we are waiting direction on how we will abide by the directive from the commission," Finks said. "We definitely want to respond appropriately to those comments."

Metro on 12/24/2018

Print Headline: Clear up domestic violence arrest policy, Little Rock told


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Archived Comments

  • RBear
    December 24, 2018 at 8:30 a.m.

    LRPD definitely needs a shakeup in the senior ranks to help provide more leadership on issues like this and no-knock warrants. The next police chief has a LOT of work to get this department refocused on protecting the citizens of the city while respecting their rights. It can accomplish both, but it needs clear direction on policy and methods to do so. Forcing officers to guess at what's right is what leads to these sort of incidents.

  • Razrbak
    December 24, 2018 at 8:41 a.m.

    If the Civil Service Commission is so worried about domestic violence, then why did they overturn LRPD's decision to fire Johnny "SmackMyBitchUp" Gilchrist?

  • Razrbak
    December 24, 2018 at 8:47 a.m.

    And why would the acting chief Finks need to speak with Bruce Moore to find out "where the confusion lies" about implementation of LRPD policies and how to "rectify" it? Seems like if Finks has applied to the position, this shows he is not capable of leading the department.

  • jwheelii
    December 24, 2018 at 8:51 a.m.

    Totally agree, RBEAR.

  • Nodmcm
    December 24, 2018 at 10:12 a.m.

    If those guys get felony convictions, then they can't own or purchase guns anymore. That is not a conservative outcome. Here in Arkansas, where gun proliferation is state policy, maybe its time to remove the prohibition on firearm possession by convicted felons. Then the police won't minimize charges against a man assaulting his intimate female partner. Heck, most convicted felons have guns anyway, so the law is not working as intended. Rather, that law causes cops to go easy on criminals.

  • UoABarefootPhdFICYMCA
    December 24, 2018 at 11:03 a.m.

    The Duluth model of domestic violence, which is the most widely taught analysis of domestic violence infers that males are responsible, yet statistic show us today that over 70% of interpersonal violence is initiated by females. Statistics provided by the Uni. of Ohio show a 67% arrest predominantly female.
    Once again it's worth mentioning there are alternatives to a restless impoverished drone class. There should be civil services for inner cities even males. Gyms, sports clubs, positive pro- activity. Government funding/non taxation for NFL, NBA etc has been mostly a waste of money.

  • Skeptic1
    December 24, 2018 at 11:20 a.m.

    If he had pulled a gun on his neighbor and threatened to kill him or her that would be an immediate aggravated assault and terrorist threatening. The police still sees domestic violence as a lessor crime, we would be better off eliminating "domestic violence" as a separate crime and treat everyone the same. Judges are jaded and skeptical of domestic violence claims as well, but not assault, battery, and terrorist threatening.

  • Nodmcm
    December 24, 2018 at 11:41 a.m.

    Skeptic: There was a time in the 1950s when television shows like the Honeymooners with Jackie Gleason intimated that physical violence by men against women was appropriate as a tool of discipline and management. There are conservatives today who believe the man is the chief of a heterosexual family, and that if necessary physical violence is appropriate both for his management and discipline of their children as well as his female partner. What is surprising is that there is not a law setting up a defense for men who assault intimate partners, such that men can claim they used violence against the woman as a last resort to reestablish order and control in the family. Remember, we're in Arkansas, and only Oklahoma and Wyoming claim to be more conservative.

  • Skeptic1
    December 24, 2018 at 11:58 a.m.

    Nodmcm...your comments are disappointing. Battery is battery, assault is assault, terrorist threats are terrorist threats. I am in a line of work where I deal with domestic violence claims near daily. VAWA has been somewhat beneficial but with most judges, and oddly women judges, allegations of DV are viewed with skeptical and cynical eyes. Why is assault against a person of color or gay a hate crime but not for everyone else, we have become a society of "me-me, I am special" away from all men and women are created equal and stand equally before the law. Being conservative has nothing to do with domestic violence, it has to do with men raised in homes of violence and political affiliation has nothing to do with it. Look at Harvey Weinstein and the rest of the so-called Hollywood elites that turned a "liberal" blind eye to the sexual violence and exploitation in that very liberal industry.