By Ray King

Pine Bluff Police Chief Kelvin Sergeant on Friday said participants in a community forum on policing Thursday focused mainly on the department’s use of force policies and how those policies will be enforced.

Appearing on the Oldies 101.3 morning show, Sergeant said a number of people also asked him how officers would be held accountable if they break those policies.

Sergeant said shortly after the death of George Floyd in Minnesota, he started hearing about a program called Eight Can’t Wait, a list of recommendations for law enforcement agencies, including the banning of choke holds.

“I looked at them and probably four of the eight we already have as a part of our policy,” he said. “Either it was an outright policy or the language was covered in different parts of the policy so I figured right away looking at it we could do seven of the eight but prior to implementing those policies, I wanted to hear from the citizens of the community to make sure their voices were heard.”

He said two of the policies took effect immediately and explained how they were implemented.

Sergeant said the order banning choke holds went out June 10 and the order on duty to intervene went out June. He said current policy had language in it that says an officer was to report any violations of department policy.

The one policy included in the Eight Can’t Wait that Sergeant said he didn’t agree with dealt with reporting of use of force, saying that sometimes when officers are attempting to defuse a situation, they might for example tell someone that they are going to get Tazed if they don’t comply with orders from the officer.

He said proponents of the Eight Can’t Wait want there to be a written report not only if force is used but if force is threatened and Sergeant said that would bog the department down in paper work.

“It was a part of the de-escalation of the situation,” Sergeant said. “You tell a person what the repercussions will be if they don’t comply or don’t stop what they were doing.”

A number of people at the forum said they wanted officers to be nicer to them hear their side of the story and Sergeant said that’s a two-way street.