Tuesday, September 06, 2016

TOP STORY >> Police forums to ease tension

Leader staff writer

“We are not Dallas, we aren’t Ferguson, and I don’t want us to become one,” said Jacksonville Police Chief Kenny Boyd as one of the reasons he has slated a “straight-talk” meeting with the community.

The chief will be one of five sitting on a panel answering questions from a Leader newspaper reporter and audience members.

The town-hall style meeting is set for 7 p.m. Thursday at the community center.

Lonoke Police Chief Patrick Mulligan will hold a meet and greet at the same time at the Lonoke Community Center.

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

Besides the Jacksonville police chief, other members of the panel will be incoming District Judge Rita Bailey, state Rep. Bob Johnson (D-Jacksonville), Alderman James Bolden and Police Officer John Boyd, who is not related to the chief.

“What is it that we all can do to make things better?” is the question the chief hopes to get answered Thursday night.

“To make any changes will take the entire group,” the chief said, “the police, the community and city leaders.”

The chief is not afraid of any of the hard questions. “We are transparent, so we won’t back away from any questions,” he said. But he won’t be able to comment on any specific case. “Depending on the situation I might be able to talk one-on-one with that person,” he said.

The chief said, “Our purpose here is to improve community relations between law enforcement and the residents. We have a good relationship now, but there is always room for improvement.”

The chief said, “We have a variety of people on the panel and should be able to answer all questions. The police department will have no control over the questions. If it’s asked, someone on the panel will answer it.”

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

For Chief Mulligan, who has been on the job for six month, his meet and greet will be a chance to 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.”

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 the Thursday “meet and greet” in Lonoke, there was also a picnic-style lunch saluting all first responders from noon to 2 p.m. Friday at the Lonoke City Park. It was sponsored by Gwatney Chevrolet, the luncheon included plenty of hot dogs and hamburgers.

Both chiefs want their residents to have full confidence in their police force.

At the start of the Jacksonville “straight talk” session, panelists 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 ways. Either by emailing the questions or comments to The Leader at leadernews@arkansasleader.com, or they’ll have an opportunity to submit them to the moderator at the meeting, or they may ask the question themselves from the audience.