LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A joint committee of Arkansas State Senate and House lawmakers heard testimony about how police responded to violence around protests at the Capitol in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
Lawmakers said their goal was to see if there are any changes they can make to prevent the violence the resulted in several officers being injured and damage that happened to dozens of buildings and properties around downtown.
State Capitol Police and Little Rock Police both testified.
“The fact is that we have never seen the kind of damage in downtown Little Rock and the damage to our capitol that we have seen that in the last few days,” said Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway). “What I’m concerned about is why the riot wasn’t stopped, that’s where I’m upset.”
State Capitol Police Chief Darrell Hedden started it off testifying about what he saw on Saturday May 30th. That was the first night of protests when a crowd marched down I-630 and threw fireworks and bricks at officers, then moved back towards the Capitol.
“Statements the Chief of Police and the Mayor of Little Rock made that this was a peaceful protest and a few bad actors,” Chief Hedden said.
Chief Hedden pinned that on why he didn’t reach out to the city for help, and instead said the Chief should have come to him.
“Feeding that man any intelligence isn’t coming from me until they change the way they view these protests,” Chief Hedden said. “My officer’s lives were in danger of being killed, I do not involve anyone who I feel would jeopardize their lives.”
When Chief Humphrey took the mic he immediately responded.
“You see these stars and stripes, 32 years. I’ve never had a Police Chief, a fellow police chief treat me like this. Disrespect me like he has done, lie. I’m not going to say untruthful, he lied,” Chief Humphrey said.
When asked why his officers didn’t try to stop any building damage he gave this answer.
“If you ask me as a Chief what would I rather happen, damage to property or loss of life, I’m going to give you property all day,” Chief Humphrey said.
Then Chief Humphrey turned to Monday June 1st, when both he and the Mayor were seen marching with protestors down Capitol Avenue just minutes before curfew. Some in that crowd turned violent.
The next day at a press conference the Mayor apologized saying he got caught up in the moment.
Chief Humphrey gave lawmakers a different explanation.
“As the Mayor was trying to walk to his car the crowd followed him. He was trying to get to his car,” Chief Humphrey said.
The last testimony was from lawyer Chris Burks, who currently represents several police officers in lawsuits against both the Chief and city. Burks said he was testifying on behalf of what his clients witnessed.
Sen. Joyce Elliott (D) called Burks testimony inappropriate.
“Lawsuits belong in the court room, I don’t think they belong in the legislature,” Elliott said.
The meeting ended abruptly after running late. Lawmakers say there are more people they wanted to hear testimony from and plan to schedule another meeting.