• Jon B. Comstock

Arkansas Justice Reform Coalition

SUGGESTED PATH TO RESTRUCTURING POLICING IN WASHINGTON AND BENTON COUNTIES

I. AREA COUNTIES AND CITIES TO ADOPT:

A. Building a new relationship with police and sheriff

1. Pass ordinance to form a Community Member Review Board which is independent of any law enforcement agency and with appropriate resources, including funding with a primary mission of building trust and improving transparency and accountability to law enforcement. 

Possible roles may include but not be limited to the following:

a.  Allow it the authority to make forward-looking policy recommendations for any part of our criminal justice system.

b Allow it to have access to appropriate records and resources, including all community members complaints to be posted on city or police websites (redacted to protect the identity of complainant.)  Put in place a process of appeal.

c. Require Community member Review Board to investigate and propose genuine “community policing” models that are well documented in other jurisdictions

d. Require Community Member Review Board to investigate and propose genuine “restorative justice” models that are well documented and that could be implemented in NWA.

e.   Develop guidelines for law enforcement when addressing non-violent protests.    

2. Provide funding for Sheriff and Public Defender’s Office to have licensed Social Workers and/or Mental Health Counselors as part of their routine staff (to address needs of and advocate for the incarcerated population, not to serve as law enforcement.). Look into non-police response team like CAHOOTS in Eugene OR or Fairfax County Mobile Crisis Unit

3. All local law enforcement personnel be trained on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and Mental Health Disabilities. Here are two examples of quality curriculum: https://www.ndss.org/programs/ndss-legislative-agenda/community-integration/law-enforcement-training/ and https://bja.ojp.gov/sites/g/files/xyckuh186/files/media/document/cit-curriculum-instructor-guide.pdf

4. (For Washington County): Make existing Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee (CJCC)  more independent and hire a full-time executive director.

5. (For Benton County): Form a public facing CJCC with community input and independence.

6. (For Fayetteville) Repurpose the proposed new police station to become a community center with a police auxiliary location.  House a detox/sobering unit there and other social service needs.

7. (For Benton County) Begin aggressively looking at ways to reduce the jail population rather than building an expansion of existing facility.

8. Require that all Grant Applications for Homeland Security/Law Enforcement be reviewed by outside decision makers ( city council/quorum court) to determine if the funding sought could be redirected to various areas of support needed by the community – in terms of recovery, mental health etc.

9. Provide for the intentional “demilitarization” of police and sheriff by (a) ceasing any participation in Federal or State program that allows for the acquisition of such equipment; (b) conduct current inventory of such equipment, and (c) make affirmative plans to dispose of such equipment in timely manner and return funds coming from these sales to the general fund.

10. Adopt a “mission statement” to reduce Mass Incarceration by adopting policies that mandate (a) development of pre-charge-referral programs for certain offenses, and (b) implement and broaden the use of Felony Citation Release (that avoids an arrest and period of pre-trial incarceration).

11. Adopt a policy that uses the least restrictive monitoring for release. Routine electronic Monitoring be used only for persons who have been convicted of a crime, not for pre-trial detainees.

B. Excessive use of force

1. Ban use of knee holds as an acceptable practice.

2. Ban chokeholds as an acceptable practice.

3. Ban no-knock warrants with limited exception with stated criteria (which must include a threat to life assessment)

4. Mandate a duty to intervene when an officer witnesses inappropriate/excessive force by another officer

5. Adopt a Use of Force Continuum which must assure that there are at least 6 levels of steps, with clear rules on escalation.

6. Require the collection and review of appropriate data by each agency (made available to the public).  For instance, any time there is a “gun unholstered”, there should be a detailed report made and reviewed by senior leadership.  Also, any time there is a “physical contact” with a citizen, a detailed report should be made.

7. Mandate appropriate training in de-escalation tactics

8. Provide that an officer’s recertification may be denied if use of lethal force violates Federal standards.

9. Mandate use of body cameras including special tasks force (pursuant to a thorough and thoughtful policy implementation and training).

10. Mandate more training regarding cultural competency, implicit bias and racial profiling.

11.  Support the creation of a national database of disciplinary actions against law enforcement officers, like there are for many other professions.

C. Rejection of Police Practices Deemed Harmful to Community

 1. Regarding police-supervised drug “buys” using Confidential Informants (CI):

a. Ban use of CI for drug-buy role.

2. Terminate the Drug Task Forces or similar informal narcotics organizations (and repurpose grant funds for diversion/remedial/recovery/reentry projects in the community – which may include providing housing for detox/sobering center, expanded Crisis Stabilization Unit and mental health services pre and post those provided by CSU).

3. Cease charging detainees a fee for routine phone and email services while in custody. Bring back in person visitation.

D. Make a Commitment to Foster and Sustain Positive Relationships between Law Enforcement and Racial Minority or otherwise Disenfranchised Communities.

1. Each government unit to annually fund a SURVEY of the minority community with the goal of ascertaining attitudes of trust toward law enforcement agencies (with the survey team to be selected by minority community – and with survey to be developed with input from minority community)

2. Take whatever steps can be taken to end Benton and Washington County’s participation in formal ICE287(g) enforcement program.

3. Take whatever steps necessary to require that area law enforcement not facilitate the work of ICE within its jails (just as they don’t now facilitate the work of the IRS or other Federal agencies).

II.  ADOPT THE FOLLOWING RESOLUTIONS TO BE SHARED WITH LEGISLATURE, GOVERNOR AND OTHERS

1. Amend Arkansas’ Freedom of Information Act to make explicit that officer misconduct information and disciplinary histories are open for public viewing – not shielded from public scrutiny (or other law enforcement agencies).

2. Make the reduced sentences for drug convictions covered by Act 570 retroactive.

3. Amend Arkansas Statutes regarding the multiple fees assessed against those charged/convicted of crimes to redirect those funds to community needs, such as drug recovery and mental health.

4. Develop a distinct branch within police/sheriff departments that is a genuine “Public Service Officer” (who do not carry weapons – or military uniform) – for the purpose of responding to most community service needs (other than real-time crime being committed).

5. Remove uniformed and armed police officer’s aka “Resource Officers” from schools and replace them with genuine licensed social workers/counselors.  (The status quo feeds Mass Incarceration).

6. Adopt funding models for the State that incentivize a reduction in the number of persons held in custody. Examples for how this could be accomplished include (a) a certain “tax” against a county for each person sent to the State Department of Corrections and (b) funding for social services programs provided to Judges, Prosecutors, and Sheriffs/Police who reduce the number of persons held in custody. 

7. Amend State laws to eliminate mandatory sentencing.  Revise Sentencing Guidelines with appropriate criteria that makes punishment more appropriate for the offense committed.

8. Mandate collection and transparency of sentencing data state-wide that allows the public to see and understand what the actual sentencing is occurring by Judge in each county of the State.

9. Affirm the belief in a Presumption of Innocence for all charged with a crime (and our corresponding agreement with the proposition that in our society we would rather a guilty person go free than an innocent person be deprived of their freedom.

10. Call on the Governor to convene a Blue Ribbon Commission on Racial Equality that has broad participation from many segments of our society, and to put his political leadership into passing & funding the recommendations of the Commission - which should not be limited to criminal justice issues.

11.  Mandate collection and transparency of plea-bargain offers made by prosecutors state-wide that allows the public (and defendants and their attorneys) to see and understand how our laws are being enforced from one jurisdiction to the next.

12.  Support the passage of legislation previously offered by Senators Jim Hendren and Joyce Elliott to require the Legislature to have a community impact assessment conducted before passing laws that create new crimes or enhance current sentencing.

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