LRPD: Should the legislature establish an independent citizens' review board on policing?
A blog reader familiar with the legislature sent in a note yesterday evening in response to comments about the complaint against LRPD filed by Eric Wilson
, the legally blind Little Rock resident who says he was injured after police threw him to the ground as he attempted to comply with their orders.
The reader pointed out a bill filed in the 2015 regular session
that called for the creation of a citizens' review board on policing practices. Such independent agencies exist in many places around the country, from New York City
to Iowa City
SB 942 was sponsored by four Democratic legislators, Sens. Joyce Elliott
and Linda Chesterfield
and Reps. Fred Love
and Vivian Flowers
. All are African American and all but Flowers are from Little Rock (she lives in Pine Bluff). The bill was referred to the Senate Judiciary committee but remained in 'shell' form without coming up for a vote — that is, it was not amended to detail actual statutory changes. It's since been referred for interim study.
Why is a shell bill filed months ago worthy of mention? Because the issue of providing meaningful recourse to police misconduct remains one of the most important topics of the day for communities of color, both here in Arkansas and across the nation. The topic deserves further legislative study, and eventual action.
Looking at the dashboard camera footage, it's hard not to conclude Eric Wilson was mistreated by the cops. But Wilson's was a relatively minor incident compared to an encounter four years ago in which Little Rock police approached and harassed another innocent man minding his own business: Eugene Ellison
, the 67 year old man shot to death by police in his own home.
That's not to say that most cops in Little Rock and elsewhere in the state aren't doing their jobs in the service of justice. But there are urgent reasons for establishing institutional safeguards to make sure citizens whose rights are violated get justice as well.