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story.lead_photo.caption Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott is shown in this file photo. - Photo by Staton Breidenthal

Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. said this week that he wants an ordinance to establish an independent citizen review board overseeing the Police Department on his desk Friday.

Scott called for such a board during his campaign and with added urgency Tuesday evening at City Hall, after more than an hour of emotional pleas for change and justice during the "citizen communication" portion of the city board meeting.

Twenty-one people spoke about the fatal February shooting of Bradley Blackshire by Little Rock police officer Charles Starks, expressing pain at the loss of their family member or fear of the police within their communities.

When the public comment period ended, the mayor said he had prayed with Blackshire's family after his death and continued to pray, but it was time to do more.

"We have to do more than just saying the same prayers; we have to move toward action," Scott said, to applause from a packed boardroom. He then told City Attorney Tom Carpenter that he wanted an ordinance by Friday to take before the city board for a vote.

The shooting took place Feb. 22, when Starks approached the car Blackshire was driving, which had been reported stolen, in a parking lot near West 12th Street and Kanis Road. According to dashboard-camera video of the incident released on March 7, Blackshire did not comply with Starks' commands to exit the vehicle.

Instead, the car rolled forward and grazed Starks' hip, the footage shows. Starks fired at least three times, then stepped in front of the moving car and shot about 12 more times from atop the car's hood, according to the video. Blackshire died at the scene, and Starks was relieved of duty three days after the shooting. The criminal investigative file has been sent to Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley's office.

Carpenter, who was tasked with writing the review board ordinance, said Wednesday that he had done extensive research but had not yet completed a draft. He said he had known Scott had wanted to set up a review board since before he took office on Jan. 1.

"He made it clear in his campaign; he made it clear when he got in," Carpenter said.

Little Rock Police Department spokesman Michael Ford said the department had not yet been officially notified or consulted about a review board ordinance.

The city has a civil service commission, which is made up of seven residents who are responsible for overseeing personnel disputes, promotions and regulation or policy violations involving the Little Rock fire and police departments. In recent months, many commission meetings have focused on hearing officers contest their suspensions or other disciplinary actions.

A spokesman for Scott said in an email that the mayor's office and the city attorney's office were finalizing details for the board, but did not answer questions about what the makeup and parameters of the board would be or how it would coexist with the civil service commission.

On Tuesday, Scott said from the dais that the review board would deal with police misconduct and brutality. He has previously said he wants to set up a "police accountability task force" in addition to the review board.

Typically, a citizen review board is made up of volunteers who review cases and offer suggestions to police leadership, Trisha Rhodes, an assistant professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, said in an email.

Rhodes said it was rare that such boards can force a police department to make a certain decision, but they can provide some external oversight, represent some citizen concerns, follow up throughout investigations and use leverage to advocate for change.

She noted that some boards are made up of residents who are not necessarily trained in policing or fully representative of all community members, adding that often people who serve on review boards are typically "white, older adults who have the time to volunteer, so they may not fully represent the concerns of citizens in all areas of the city."

Dawn Jeffrey, director of community relations for local civil-rights community organization Seeds of Liberation, said she would support the establishment of a review board but hoped the mayor and city directors would appoint "actual community members that may not fit into their world."

"Are you actually putting people who can relate and be unbiased but actually know these communities?" she said.

Some city directors who communicated with an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporter on Wednesday said they would need more details about a review board to decide whether they would vote for it.

"I need to see the specifics. There are many types of citizen review boards, and while I'd probably be inclined to support, I couldn't comment until I saw the specifics," Ward 3 City Director Kathy Webb said in a text message.

Capi Peck, who represents Ward 4, said she would be supportive but thought any decision needed to be made in a thoughtful manner.

Ward 2 City Director Ken Richardson said he believed a citizen review board could be one way to help a fractured relationship between some residents and police, but he said that if established, it should not just be symbolic. Setting up a panel without any influence would be like "putting a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound" and possibly make things worse, he said.

"It's a good idea, but it has to have some teeth," Richardson said. "A lot of times, we put these things in place just to say we have these things in place."

The earliest the board could vote on such an ordinance would be at its next regular meeting on April 2.

Metro on 03/21/2019

Print Headline: Little Rock mayor calls for ordinance on police oversight

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Archived Comments

  • tngilmer
    March 21, 2019 at 4:45 a.m.

    In other words, turn LR into Baltimore and do it now.

  • RBear
    March 21, 2019 at 6:19 a.m.

    No, TNGilmer. Once again, you make a completely uninformed comment. Explain how a CRB will "turn LR into Baltimore." What factual evidence do you have?
    ...
    I fully agree with and support Mayor Scott's proposal for a citizen's review board. It is actually surprising that Little Rock does not have such an oversight board. In looking at a list compiled of oversight boards across the nation, Little Rock is absent from the list. This is a good time to rectify that gap and provide some citizen review of policing activities, especially in events where deadly force was used.

  • NoUserName
    March 21, 2019 at 7:10 a.m.

    From a few lists I've seen after a quick search, there aren't that many cities with oversight boards. Some of the boards that do exist appear to not be civilian. Right or wrong, I think the Mayor demanding - on TUESDAY - an ordinance to be written - by FRIDAY - leaves a LOT of room to get it completely wrong. Carpenter's 'I was aware of it already' attempt to spare the mayor notwithstanding.

  • RBear
    March 21, 2019 at 7:17 a.m.

    NUN I'm not sure what list you're looking at, but there are several CRBs. I know all the major cities in TX have them. With regards to writing the ordinance, there are many examples to look to with regards to writing this ordinance. We don't have to make this up from scratch. Maybe you should do more than "a quick search."

  • RBear
    March 21, 2019 at 7:24 a.m.

    The DoJ even has a guide to the establishment and operation of a CRB with nine examples from various departments around the nation on how they operate their own CRB. Maybe you need to do a little more time searching than just "a quick search." I can put you in contact with the chair of the San Antonio CRB if you'd like to see how one is actually run. From the SAPD website, "A complaint on an officer for conduct that exhibits a significant variance from behavioral expectations established through formal training, departmental rules, regulations, policies, or procedures which regulate a sworn member's conduct. These complaints are investigated by Internal Affairs investigators who forward their findings to a board comprised of police officers and private citizens. This board reviews the investigators’ findings, then makes a recommendation to the Chief of Police as to the discipline that should be imposed on the officer if it is determined that the officer indeed engaged in misconduct. Some examples of formal complaints include: excessive use of force; engaging in criminal conduct; failure to perform police responsibilities."

  • Skeptic1
    March 21, 2019 at 8:08 a.m.

    Here we go, it's the police not the criminals that are the problem. How predictable, good job Little Rock you voted from bad to worse. Every single city in the US with a high crime and homicide rate is run by Democrats, isn't that the definition of insanity?

  • reality1963
    March 21, 2019 at 8:10 a.m.

    Agree, Skeptic

  • ArkCurmudgeon
    March 21, 2019 at 8:26 a.m.

    I have not read that the mayor has said one thing supporting the police and putting any liability on the criminals. In this case, I feel like the officer should not have moved in front of and basically on the hood of the car and continued to fire but, he was there and i was not. I might have done the same thing. Blackshire was in the wrong. God bless the LRPD. I hope there isn't a mass exodus of officers since it is apparent that this administration is not going to back them.

  • ChoctawPride
    March 21, 2019 at 8:29 a.m.

    Remarks such as those by Rhodes are part of what keep the racism going. I would be happy to serve on a review board however I am a Choctaw and hold a BS in Education. I also live in the SW side of town, south of Baseline and Chicot. Does she have an issue with Indians on the board if they have white in them or just if they are all white.
    Does being all white restrict you from being impartial to certain issues? I hate that and all these years I was under the impression that I have been able to be able to look at issues from both sides of the issue. I do believe that anytime you say "white, "black" "yellow" or "red" when referring to someone or a group of people it immediately becomes a racial remark, unless it is in certain circumstances i.e. someone the police are looking for when you need to know the race of the person so you don't go looking at all the black men age 25 when you are really looking for a white man.
    I have gone on for a long time but I am TIRED of hearing "you are racist" if you say anything about a "black" person, what about when a black person says something about a white, Mexican, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, and I could go on listing the races.
    I do not hear them being called racist. So I looked up the definition of racist: it is the doctrine that one's own racial group is superior or that a particular racial group is inferior to the others.

    So I looked up RACISM: noun
    1 a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human racial groups determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to dominate others or that a particular racial group is inferior to the others.
    2 a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination.
    3 hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.

    Just because we mention one race does not make us racist or involved in racism.

  • RBear
    March 21, 2019 at 8:45 a.m.

    skeptic where is the call for a CRB implying it's the fault of the police? Your statement on that AND on major cities are baseless with no facts to really back them. Granted, most major cities are run by Democrats when there the office is partisan, but that's because most major cities are progressive. But I have also seen stats of major cities run by Republicans with equally high crime rates. Try again. You're showing DDS.

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