Thursday, September 01, 2016

TOP STORY >> Police planning forums

Leader staff writer

The Jacksonville and Lonoke police departments will hold meetings with residents Thursday, Sept. 8.

Jacksonville Police Chief Kenny Boyd said, “In light of all the issues nationwide with law enforcement, various communities and the judicial system, I felt it was time for us to have a ‘straight talk’ meeting between the department and citizens.”

That meeting is set for 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 8 at the Jacksonville Community Center.

Lonoke Police Chief Patrick Mulligan has set a “meet and greet” gathering for 7 p.m. at the Lonoke Community Center.

For Mulligan, who has been on the job for six months, it will be a chance share his vision about the police department and the city. “I’ve spent a lot of time visiting church leaders about the community and this is the next step.”

For the Jacksonville meeting there will be a panel, including the police chief, the incoming district judge, one or more aldermen and a city police officer who works the streets and will field questions and comments from the public.

Boyd, in an effort to make the exchange as transparent and open as possible, asked The Leader to have one of its reporters moderate the event and compile the questions. The police department will have no control over the questions. “If it’s asked, someone on the panel will answer it,” the chief said.

Boyd said the idea of reaching out to the public came to him after one of the recent police shootings. “I had emails from two residents asking me what I was doing to prevent Jacksonville police from shooting black people. I told them come on in and talk to me. One did, and it was a very good conversation, and I want to extend that conversation.”

At the start of what the chief is calling the “straight talk” session, each panelist will introduce themselves, give residents some insight into their philosophy and then the moderator will start with the questions.

Residents can ask questions in three manners.

Either by emailing the questions or comments to The Leader at, or they’ll have an opportunity to submit them to the moderator at the meeting or, if time permits, ask the question themselves from the audience.

“We just want the city to know what we are doing, what we are trying to do and what we want to do,” the Boyd said.

Both police chiefs said they have an open-door policy and want to give the communities as much transparency as possible.

Mulligan said he has already named a civilian group, dubbed the chief’s cabinet, to review any incidents of excessive use of force or shootings. “We are meeting once a month to keep them in the loop.”

Besides Lonoke’s Sept. 8 meet and greet, a picnic-style lunch saluting all first responders will be held from noon till 2 p.m. Friday, Sept. 2 at the Lonoke City Park. Sponsored by Gwatney Chevrolet, the luncheon will include plenty of hot dogs and hamburgers.