ARKANSAS, (6/8/20) — While Congressional Democrats unveiled legislation geared at police reform some advocates are working to bring change on the state and local levels.
Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd are just a few in the long list of names that have sparked nationwide demonstrations. Millions are calling for criminal justice, racial and police reform including one Crossett native.
“I had taken a stance to send letters my mayor and local city government,” Community Activist, Jimmy Warren said. “I reached out to my state representative and state senators.”
Warren is now an activist in Conway. He among about 20 individuals across the state that was asked to meet with Governor Asa Hutchinson last Friday to discuss solutions that would end police brutality and racial injustice.
Kendrell Collins is also a community activist in the Central Arkansas area. They each presented action steps deemed vital to ending systemic oppression.
According to a letter written to Governor Hutchinson, Warren proposed that Arkansas State Police handle all officer involved shootings across the state instead of departments handling internal investigations.
He also proposed officers be required to cultural and de-escalation training within six months of employment. Training should happen on a recurring basis throughout the year.
Warren also suggested that funding and grant opportunities should be made available to ensure every officer in the state has a body camera.
Collins provided 20 demands for racial and criminal justice that can be found below. Both compiled advice from their communities on what issues were most important to address in the meeting.
“I think it was just a good time for both sides to work together and start building something that we can have long standing that other states can look to Arkansas to be a leader in,” Warren said.
Although it was difficult for both to choose a few issues that needed to be addressed more than others, both agree that the governor should encourage state and local citizens review boards.
Warren’s hope for the she state review boards would be that the group address any concerns and recommend policies to the Arkansas General Assembly. While, Collins would like to see Governor Hutchinson encourage the mayors in each city to develop independent citizen review boards to review abuse by officers.
“You have to have citizen review boards. Community involvement in the process is extremely important,” Collins said. “When he says something it has weight and it gives political cover to the local leaders to say that even the governor is calling for this, we should do this for our city.”
Mayor of Little Rock, Frank Scott, announced today the city would called for an Independent Review Committee to investigate lawsuits against Chief Keith Humphrey and the Little Rock Police Department.
The city implemented a citizen’s review board last year and is working on its first hearing in the next couple of months.
The review boards are made up of appointed community members that make recommendations or the hiring or misconduct within a department.
Camden Police Department has also given a group of its citizens such authority. Spokespersons for police departments in Crossett, El Dorado and Strong haven’t implemented this program but said it’s something to look into.
The pair is hopeful that progress will spread across cities in the state. They are already seeing change with the Democrats proposing legislation to address issues that would ban chokeholds and no-knock warrants in drug cases.
“We need to make sure that process is limited to very strict situation Certainly not to violent drug offenses where you’re going to do something so violent,” Collins said. “Children can be behind the door. There are more effective ways that respect people’s Fourth Amendment rights and their public safety.”
Collins’ fully expects the governor to respond to the demands that were made. They both believe the protests happening in Arkansas and across the nation are working.
“We’re seeing a direct change because of the protests that have been happening,” Warren said.
Both hope communities in smaller town will become advocates and hold their local officials accountable.
“Make that appointment,” Warren said. “If you’re somebody who wants to see change in those smaller communities you may not need as many people to make the difference. You’re the difference maker. Use your voice.”
Warren and Collins hope communities continue conversations about injustices until they see appropriate action from leaders.
Governor Hutchinson is expected to create a task force this week to address concerns.