Mayor Frank Scott Jr. is using a security detail from the Little Rock Police Department, officials confirmed Monday.
In a statement citing "serious safety concerns," Scott said police leadership had advised him to accept protection. The detail consists of two police detectives who already worked for the department and one police vehicle, Scott's spokesman Stephanie Jackson said.
The detail was put in place one day after authorities announced that the Little Rock police officer who fatally shot Bradley Blackshire on Feb. 22 would face no criminal charges, though Jackson said that didn't factor into the decision. Scott's statement said he had been made aware of "serious safety concerns" in the months since he was elected in December.
Then-interim Police Chief Wayne Bewley advised a security detail in February, Scott said in the statement. New Police Chief Keith Humphrey, whose first day on the job was April 15, was said to have made the same recommendation "out of an abundance of caution and in keeping with the best practices of many similarly situated cities around the country."
Jackson said the officers would be in plain clothes and that the detail isn't 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week protection. She said the cost is to be determined.
When asked if there are any open investigations into threats to the mayor's office, police spokesman Michael Ford referred the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette to the mayor's office.
Jackson said the safety concerns have been "wide and varied" but said Monday that she didn't have details.
"[Police] have a system of judging what's credible," she said.
Ford said he was not aware of any other Little Rock officials or former mayors having a security detail.
When asked if he had requested a security team or received death threats, Pulaski County Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley said he would have to "respectfully decline to comment."
Also on Monday, protesters and speakers took to the state Capitol steps in a rally calling for action in response to Blackshire's death.
Chants of "justice for Bradley" and "no justice, no peace" rang out multiple times as Blackshire's family members came together with supporters to demand justice in the wake of Jegley's decision not to charge officer Charles Starks.
"We got to hold our officials accountable," Rizelle Aaron, Blackshire's uncle, said at the rally. "We don't promote violence or destruction of property, but we demand justice."
On Feb. 22, Starks confronted the 30-year-old Blackshire, who was driving a car that had been reported stolen, near West 12th Street and South Rodney Parham Road. Video shows that Blackshire did not comply with the officer's commands and the vehicle rolled forward, grazing the officer's hip.
Starks fired his weapon at least 15 times, killing Blackshire. Between bursts of gunfire, Starks moved in front of the vehicle, which then struck him.
In the weeks since, the Blackshire family, friends and supporters have rallied multiple times to demand first the release of dashboard camera footage of the shooting, then for the prosecution and firing of Starks, for the establishment of a citizen advisory board for the Police Department and for the purchase of body cameras for all Little Rock police officers.
On Friday, Jegley wrote in a letter to Police Chief Humphrey that Starks would not face criminal charges.
"I was disappointed," DeAngelo Lee, Blackshire's stepfather, said Monday. "We had an idea that it was going to happen. The individuals in charge, Jegley, we already knew. But there will be more peaceful protests and more rallies. We aren't going anywhere."
People holding "#Justice for Bradley" signs or wearing "Black Lives Do Matter" shirts voiced their support on Monday and yelled for justice throughout the protest.
"This is intended to be a peaceful nonviolent rally," Aaron said. "I will say this: that is subject to change if the police come and do anything to attack us or try to remove us from the steps that we help to build."
Aaron went on to talk strategy for future demonstrations.
"If we protest, don't do it in our house," he said. "We are coming to their house. We are going to Starks' house, Jegley's house, the Little Rock city directors and Mayor Frank Scott, you are my friend and brother, but we are coming for you too, 'cause we are not leaving anybody out."
Several law enforcement officers also attended the rally, including what appeared to be men in uniform standing on a nearby roof while a drone flew overhead.
"They aren't just standing up there like sharpshooters for nothing," Jihan Mohammad, a member of the Nation of Islam headquartered in Little Rock and Pine Bluff, said while pointing at the men on the roof. "They hope that some of us would act a fool. There is nothing wrong with us organizing."
State Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, took to Facebook to voice her displeasure at the amount of law enforcement at the event.
"To my surprise, there was also so much raw police power for a rather small gathering at 10 o'clock a.m.," Elliott wrote. "My first time ever seeing anything like that at the Capitol. It was stunning. The drive leading to the tunnel was blocked. The Capitol itself was locked down."
Elliott said the amount of law enforcement is nothing new when responding to African-Americans.
"This group was not a threat! This is not a terrorist group. Though, predominantly African-American, this was a diverse group of folks who were there in support of Bradley Blackshire's family and in support of a just outcome," she wrote.
Mark Stodola, Little Rock's previous mayor and a former prosecuting attorney, said he "never felt a need for a security detail" in either role. However, he said it wouldn't be surprising to see security added temporarily in light of the Blackshire case, due to the community's concern over the recent decision.
Jackson said the duration of the detail is up to the mayor and Police Department, "based on whatever intelligence" police receive going forward.
City Hall has some security of its own. There's at least one officer present outside the boardroom when the city Board of Directors meets on Tuesdays. Visitors to City Hall are checked in by security staff at the front door.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson uses Arkansas State Police as a security detail. State police spokesman Bill Sadler said there's at least one trooper with the governor at all times.
A Section on 04/23/2019
Print Headline: Little Rock Mayor Scott using police security detail