By Ray King

Pine Bluff Police Chief Kelvin Sergeant on Wednesday said officers will be present for a “solidarity rally” planned Thursday on the steps of City Hall but said there will be a “soft approach.”

The rally is in response to the death of George Floyd last week in Minnesota and has sparked protests in cities across the state and nation, including Little Rock where more than 50 people were arrested Tuesday night after they violated curfew and refused to leave.

Sergeant made his comments during a meeting of the Pine Bluff City Council’s Public Safety and Public Health and Welfare Committees.

“We want people to come together and be positive, but it only takes one rock through a window and there’s buildings on fire,” Public Safety Committee Chairman Win Trafford said. “We pray nothing like that happens.”

No additional details have been announced about the rally as yet, but it is expected to begin at 6 p.m.

On another subject, Sergeant said the monthly crime stats for May showed a decline compared to May 2019, particularly in terms of property related crimes. Crimes against persons, particularly simple assaults and aggravated assaults increased compared to a year ago and Sergeant attributed that to the number of people who were cooped up and not working because of COVID-19.

Committee member Ivan Whitfield expressed concern that city employees are required to wear a mask while at work but people who come to city hall to do business do not and recommended that signs be placed at city hall encouraging the wearing of a mask.

The third member of the committee, Joni Alexander agreed that signs are needed but said it could get expensive if the city had to furnish a mask to everyone who came to the building.

Fire and Emergency Services Chief Shauwn Howell said the Joe Thomas Public Safety Building is using just one entrance for both his department and the Police Department, the entrance to the police department where officers are behind a glass already. He said most people who come to his department to do business do wear masks but if not, they are given an inexpensive throw-away mask to wear.

Howell also said he had recently inspected the construction of the new fire station located across from the casino and said the building would be ready for occupancy soon.

“It’s more of fine tuning,” Howell said. The new station, which is being built by the Quapaw Nation, will replace the existing station on Commerce Road.