Van Buren natives Layla Holloway and Emma Davis were appointed to the Task Force to Advance the State of Law Enforcement in Arkansas created by Gov. Hutchinson.
Davis and Holloway’s successful organization of a Black Lives Matter protest in Fort Smith earned them an invitation to a meeting with Gov. Hutchinson and other community activists in Arkansas.
After seeing the horrific George Floyd video, Davis and Holloway wanted to use this moment to bring awareness to police brutality, “We grew up with unarmed Black men, women and children dying at the hands of police brutality in America. We grew up being told to put our hands on the dash, to not make any sudden movements for the fear of being shot. For the first time ever, White America saw the America that Layla and I as well as other Black Americans experience. Layla said she wanted to protest and I told her that we should protest in Fort Smith,” Davis said. “At first, we started a group chat with about five or six of our friends who would be interested and Layla moved it over to Facebook. From there, we had over 200 people interested and when the demonstration happened, there were over 500 people there.”
One of the ways, the task force has looked into improve policing in the community is reconstructing the way police officers in Arkansas are being trained, “For training, we’re discussing how we need to lengthen the state training period by adding more to the curriculum surrounding implicit bias training, racial sensitivity training and disability sensitivity training. With community policing, we are looking into ways we can have social workers and police officers work together to deescalate non-threatening situations. Recently, we discussed accountability measures when it comes to decertifying a police officer,” Davis said.
An obstacle Holloway sees in revamping policing is holding police officers accountable for their misconduct, “There is a ‘good ole boys’ club that exists within the law enforcement agencies. The “blue code” or “code of blue” is there to ensure that law enforcement agencies and officers are protected from being held accountable,” Holloway said.
The task force will have until Dec. 31 of this year to build a report detailing to Gov. Hutchinson on how the state can improve its policing practices.