- Chris Erwin, following the Oct. 29 incident outside of Ferneau.
Twenty-eight citizen complaints and other allegations of misconduct have been lodged against the Little Rock police lieutenant involved in a much-publicized incident outside of Ferneau restaurant last fall since he was hired in 1978, according to internal LRPD files.
Little Rock attorney Keith Hall, whose client Chris Erwin was struck repeatedly by Lt. David Hudson outside of Ferneau on Oct. 29 in an incident that was caught on video, provided the Arkansas Times with the files.
Asked if the number of complaints in Lt. Hudson's file seems excessive when compared to other officers, LRPD spokesperson Sgt. Cassandra Davis said it doesn't. "Officers do get complaints, so no, that doesn't seem too excessive with him being on the force that long," Davis said. "Some officers don't get any complaints, but some do. Being on that long, he's made contact with a lot of people."
According to an internal printout provided by Hall — part of what Hall called a 500 page "dump" of LRPD paperwork he received less than a week before Erwin was scheduled to go to trial — Hudson has been suspended four times during his career: Ten days in Sept. 1983 for unspecified misconduct and two days in May 1986, five days in Dec. 1987 and one day in April 1991 for car accidents.
Hall also provided the Times with files that contain more detail about 15 complaints lodged against Hudson and the outcome of the Internal Affairs investigations regarding those complaints. Of those 15, five are citizen complaints of physical abuse or excessive force. After internal investigations, Hudson was exonerated from two complaints, meaning the investigation found that he behaved lawfully and "within the scope of his authority." Another was deemed "unfounded," meaning investigators determined the alleged incident did not occur. Another was withdrawn. A complaint filed by Erwin remains under investigation.
Also among the batch of 15 longer narratives Hall provided to the Times are two complaints for which Hudson received letters of reprimand but wasn't suspended. A Nov. 24, 2006, complaint is described as: "Internal investigation authorized by Chief Thomas pursuant to allegations of failure to supervise." A June 1, 2007, complaint is described as: "Lost or stole property Glock Model 22 .40 caliber pistol SN GFD640/ Su Fire Tactical Light and Glock paddle holster."
Responding to a Freedom of Information Act request seeking more documents related to the complaints against Hudson, department spokesman Lt. Terry Hastings said that all documents relating to the four suspensions Hudson has drawn since joining the force in 1978 have been destroyed because of their age in accordance with department policy, and other documents relating to citizen complaints against Hudson — including those for which Hudson received a letter of reprimand — aren't accessible under the FOI because Hudson wasn't punished with a suspension, demotion or termination. We've sent follow-up questions to Lt. Hastings, including asking for more detail on the LRPD's old-document destruction policy, but haven't heard back from him yet.
Department spokesperson Sgt. Cassandra Davis said that that the LRPD's Internal Affairs Division, which investigates citizen complaints and allegations of officer misconduct, is composed of sergeants who conduct the investigations and a higher-ranking supervisor. The investigators, Davis said, are "officers of this department that have served in other divisions such as detectives and patrol." Asked how the department ensures impartiality, Davis said: "the investigators are only fact finders and do not make a determination as to discipline."
The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled in Hall and Erwin's favor on Feb. 16, upholding a lower court ruling that said officers' use of force documents — including the internal documents created during the internal investigation into the incident at Ferneau on Oct. 29 — should be public records. Hall said he wasn't provided many of the documents he requested from the LRPD until he received over 500 pages of records on the Friday before the case against Erwin was scheduled to go to trial. Citing the delay in providing the documents to the defense, Sherwood District Judge Milas "Butch" Hale tentatively dismissed the criminal charges against Erwin on Feb. 21, but is currently reconsidering the ruling at the request of prosecutors. Hale said he will rule this week on whether the charges against Erwin will stand.
More from the 15 longer narratives:
*May 1996: a complainant claims that $11,629 worth of property went missing the execution of a search warrant. Outcome of the Internal Affairs investigation: not sustained
*July 1996: a complainant claims that $2,400 worth of jewelry went missing following the execution of a search and seizure warrant. Outcome: not sustained.
*Oct. 1996: a complainant claimed that a $100 bill was missing from his wallet following execution of a search and seizure warrant. Outcome: A ruling of "misconduct not based on original complaint - inappropriate handling of money" with the complainant reimbursed $100.
*Feb. 2007: a complainant claims officers used excessive force while searching his vehicle and took $1,000. Outcome: Exonerated.
*Oct. 2009, a complainant claims he was "thrown to the ground and spit on by Lt. Hudson." Outcome: Complaint withdrawn.