LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The Little Rock Board of Directors are scheduled to vote Tuesday night on a proposed ordinance that would create the Little Rock Citizens Review Board.
Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr., introduced the proposed ordinance last week that would create the group ‘to enhance public perception and to build and maintain public trust between the Little Rock Police Department (LRPD) and the public’, according to the proposed ordinance.
The proposed ordinance would give the Citizens Review Board the authority to review any initial complaint or request for review.
The Board would have the authority to review use of force that has resulted in physical or serious injury, use of deadly force, corruption or discrimination.
According to the proposed ordinance, all complaints filed that will be considered by the Citizens Review Board, must notify the Mayor’s office of the complaint.
The citizens board would either find a complaint or review request concurrent with the result of the LRPD or a prior investigation, advise the Mayor, City Manager and Police Chief additional review is needed or advise the Mayor, City Manager and Police Chief the investigation is incomplete and additional review is recommended.
The board would consist of five members appointed by Mayor Scott and they would serve three year terms. The Mayor would also select a person to serve as Chair.
The proposed ordinance orders each member to complete appropriate training on law enforcement and LRPD Rules and Regulations as well as its General Orders.
The Little Rock Fraternal Order of Police sent a letter through its attorney Chad Cummings Monday requesting the Little Rock Board of Directors to vote down the proposed ordinance.
“We believe that the demand among some in the public for a Citizens Review Board reflects a lack of understanding of how much review already occurs,” says Cummings.
Cummings says there are at least five agencies and bodies that review and investigate police actions which include Internal Affairs, the Civil Service Commission, Pulaski County Prosecutor’s Office, the U.S. Department of Justice and the Shooting Review Board.
“Rather than add another public review body, the FOP believes the City would be better served by improving the public’s access to information about what is already being done,” says Cummings.
The Civil Service Commission, civilians appointed by members of the Little Rock Board of Directors and the Mayor, currently has the power to hear appeals made by officers and is able to strengthen or revoke disciplinary decisions made by Little Rock Police Command Staff.
Cummings also expresses concerns about the separation of powers.
“As it stands, the Mayor would choose the members, who then report results of its reviews primarily to him. The Mayor also selects the chair of the Citizens Review Board. This leaves the Board [of Directors] with no overnight powers,” says Cummings.
The letter to the Board also shows the FOP believes the greatest danger of this kind of Citizens Review Board is that its review of police action is focused on politics and responding to the public.
“This will hinder police action and make our city less safe,” says Cummings.
In a separate letter, sent by Little Rock City Attorney Tom Carpenter Tuesday morning, obtained by KARK 4 News, Carpenter tells the Board of Directors that the Citizens Review Board will act as an audit of investigations.
“The focus is whether the City is conducting a full, fair and open (to the extent of possible) investigation of allegations of misconduct,” says Carpenter. “The Citizens Review Board, however, has nothing to do with the decision of the LRPD Chief of Police as to whether an officer should be disciplined. The officer cannot be forced to appear before the Citizens Review Board because it does not have subpoena power.”
The Little Rock Board of Directors are scheduled to vote on the proposed ordinance Tuesday at 6 p.m. at City Hall.