On the agenda…
- Acceptance of a state Drug Crime Enforcement and Prosecution Grant for state funding of the Fourth Judicial District Drug Task Force.
A special meeting of the Fayetteville City Council began at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020. It is lived streamed on the city’s YouTube channel, and held virtually on the Zoom app due to social distancing measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Listed below is the item up for approval and a link to the PDF document with detailed information about the item.
Present: Sonia Gutierrez, Mark Kinion, Matthew Petty, Mayor Lioneld Jordan, Sloan Scroggin, Sarah Bunch, Teresa Turk, Kyle Smith
Absent: Sarah Marsh
1. SRP – 2020-2021 DTF DCF Grant Award (Details)
A resolution to authorize acceptance of a state Drug Crime Enforcement and Prosecution Grant for state funding of the Fourth Judicial District Drug Task Force in the amount of $91,319.00, and to authorize Mayor Jordan to sign all necessary documents to receive the grant funds.
– Pass 7-0
This grant would provide $91,319 with a required local match of $18,264 which staff said is already budgeted within the city Drug Enforcement Fund. The state has provided funding for multi-jurisdictional drug task force actives since 1991. Participating law enforcement agencies include Fayetteville, Springdale, Prairie Grove, Farmington, Lincoln, Greenland, West Fork, Goshen, Elkins, Tontitown, Elm Springs and Washington County.
Chief Reynolds said in 2018, 65% of DTF felony arrests were for methamphetamine, 10% were for marijuana, 8% were for cocaine, 6% for opioids, and 5% were for heroin.
In 2019, 69% were for methamphetamine, 11% were for cocaine, 8% were for marijuana and 4% were for heroin.
In 2020, 81% were for methamphetamine, 10% were for heroin and 4% were for marijuana.
However, Reynolds said the task force made no misdemeanor marijuana arrests in 2019 or so far in 2020 inside the Fayetteville city limits.
Reynolds said if Fayetteville refuses the grant money, it’s possible the other cities could still receive their funds. He said it’s unclear if Fayetteville would exit the task force or if it would find funding in some other way. It’s also unclear how felony drug crimes would be investigated in Fayetteville – specifically he didn’t know exactly who would do that work (another city, the county, the state, etc.)
During public comment, people are speaking on both sides of the issue.
Many of those against the resolution, said defunding the task force could help stop predatory policing practices when it comes to drug crimes.
Several people said their lives or those of their friends or family members had been permanently negatively affected after they were arrested for possession of drugs or for selling illegal drugs.
One person told a story about a high school student who allegedly was bullied by task force officers after police found marijuana on the student. The person said the officers used the student to try and find drug dealers by continuously texting him until the student broke down and told his parents what was going on.
Several of those in favor said the council should pay attention to the data which indicates the task force is not focused on small possession offenses, but rather on large-scale operations that also includes gun violence and home break-ins.
One woman who spoke in favor said she is a former drug addict whose life was turned around after her dealer was arrested which led her to get help for her addiction.
Some City Council candidates have spoken about the issue tonight. Holly Hertzberg (Ward 4), Pedro Fimbres (1) and Peter Tonnessen (Ward 3) spoke in favor of the resolution.
By our count, a total of 55 people spoke – 38 in favor and 17 against.
Council Member Scroggin said it’s clear that different demographics have different experiences with law enforcement and he doesn’t want to ignore that, but he will be supporting the task force because of its fiduciary responsibility across the region.
Bunch said the task force helps get guns off the street and target major drug trafficking. She’s in support of the resolution.
Turk said the task force is focused on large-scale drug operations that are organized and that involve firearms. She said this could be an opportunity to seek more drug treatment programs, but rejecting this grant is not the answer to the problems. She’ll vote in favor.
Petty said he’ll also vote to accept the grant. He said he’s worried about the jurisdictional responsibilities being moved to another city if Fayetteville removes itself from the task force.
Kinion said he appreciates all the feedback about the topic and respects everyone’s point of view. He said it takes bravery to share experiences. He said many of the stories tonight need to be investigated. But he said council members can’t judge the Fayetteville Police Department against their opinions about police in general. He said the regional task force is a critical element of law enforcement and it should continue to be chaired by Fayetteville to help set a good example. He’s in favor.
Smith said he’s received a lot of feedback about the two recent law enforcement grant issues (SRO and DTF) with people saying ‘just take the free money.’ But he said money rarely comes free without strings attached, and discussions like these should sometimes be examined because there is no citizen oversight committee of law enforcement like there is with many of the other arms of local government. He asked Chief Reynolds if there are any other things that could be done to help solve drug issues.
Reynolds said more prevention and intervention programs could definitely benefit the city. “The Police Department cannot simply arrest its way out of drug problems,” said Reynolds.
Gutierrez thanked Smith for bringing the discussion into the light. She said she’s working with the FPD on improving transparency and communication. She said the department might be open to a citizen-led committee that can make recommendations on those issues.
Mayor Jordan said he’s 100% in support of the police department.
The council voted 7-0 to approve the resolution. Marsh was absent for tonight’s meeting.
This meeting was adjourned at 9:06 p.m.