by Max Brantley
Keith Hall, attorney for Chris Erwin, has taken a new legal approach to getting documents about previous use of force by Little Rock Police Lt. David Hudson. Hudson, who was working as a security guard at Ferneau restaurant in Hillcrest, was filmed repeatedly punching Erwin in the face after Erwin asked why he was being asked to leave a Halloween party in the restaurant. Erwin was arrested on a variety of charges and Hall has been seeking information about Hudson through a Freedom of Information Act request.
On four occasions, Hudson has filed required reports on use of force. The police department has refused to release those reports to Hudson. It contends they are exempt from the FOI. Judge Wendell Griffen has ordered the documents released, but the city has refused, saying it will appeal the order.
New approach: Hall has now filed a "discovery" motion in the criminal trial for the same reports. The rules, he thinks, should require production of the material. I wonder, too, if the department has any record of past citizen complaints against Erwin. Records on such complaints are open to public inspection.
Hall also said the disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and trespass case against Erwin has been transferred, without explanation, from Judge Alice Lightle's District Court in Little Rock to the district court in Sherwood.
UPDATE: I requested records of any citizen complaints against Hudson. The police provided two — one by Ralph Jackson, who said Hudson threw him to the ground and spit on him in 2009, and the other by Jay Parks, who said Hudson used excessive force. Full files on investigations, if any, were not included. The form said Jackson's complaint was withdrawn and Hudson was "exonerated" in the Parks complaint. These were both cases in which Hudson reported having used force in arrests.
UPDATE II: The city is refusing my FOI request to release underlying investigation documents about the citizen complaints. They call THESE personnel records. If that's so, I don't see how they can release the complaints themselves. This is wrong any way you slice it. The only way the police can be accountable is if we know a citizen complaint gets a fair hearing. We have no way of knowing that with this procedure.
UPDATE III: Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen today refused to stay his ruling ordering records about Hudson's use of force open to Hall. Presumably, the city will fight to the bitter end to shield police from accountability.