Photos by Clayton Taylor
Fayetteville Police Chief Mike Reynolds has received the city’s annual Martin Luther King Brotherhood Award, in part for the department’s peaceful handling of the protest that followed the murder of George Floyd in 2020.
The annual recognition was started nearly 20 years ago by City Attorney Kit Williams, who selects a city employee whose service to the community best exemplifies King’s dream of equality, justice and brotherhood.
Williams announced this year’s recipient during last week’s City Council meeting.
Williams said the first recipient of the award in 2002 was Frank Johnson, who at the time was a captain at the police department and later became the city’s first African American police chief.
“We have been blessed with excellent leadership in our police department,” said Williams, who noted that the city’s most recently retired police chief Greg Tabor went on to become the U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Arkansas. “Because of our chiefs’ leadership and determination that our police department would accept only the highest and most exemplary ethical conduct, our police officers operate with unparalleled professionalism and respect for the constitutional rights of all of our citizens.”
Williams said for over 20 years, not a single allegation of police misconduct presented to the federal courts have been found valid.
“That perfect record does not happen by chance,” he said. “It requires consistent and determined leadership by our police chief and the chief’s leadership team, as well as a personal commitment from every one of our officers.”
Williams said that commitment was put to the test last year when a local protest was organized on the downtown square in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd by police on a Minneapolis street in May.
Chief Reynolds (center) stands alongside Mayor Lioneld Jordan (left) and City Attorney Kit Williams (right). / Photo: City of Fayetteville
“This protest overflowed the Fayetteville square with citizens expressing their opposition to police violence against unarmed black people that has plagued much of America,” said Williams. “Just a couple of days earlier, a Bentonville square protest erupted into vandalism and violence between the protesters and police. Police Chief Mike Reynolds was determined that such violence and disorder would not occur in Fayetteville.”
Williams said Reynolds prepared Fayetteville officers to remain both in order and to show proper respect to the protesters, noting that Fayetteville officers knelt with protesters during the event.
“It was a night and day difference from the embarrassment in Bentonville,” Williams told the City Council last week. “Our police officers showed that they were truly peace officers. They showed the world the professionalism and honor that our citizens rightly expect.
“I truly believe that Dr. King would be smiling down from the mountaintop upon Chief Reynolds, our police officers and all of those peaceful protesters.”
Reynolds has been with the Fayetteville department for 27 years, including time as a patrol officer, field training officer and detective. He served as assistant chief for eight years before being appointed chief in 2019 following Tabor’s retirement.
“I am humbled and honored by this award,” said Reynolds. “But this isn’t about me. This is about the men and women of the police department, it’s about the City Council, it’s about the city staff and mayor, and it’s about the community. We could not have gotten through this past year that has been so difficult had we not all been united.”
More photos of the Fayetteville protest
Photography by Flyer contributor Clayton Taylor