Supreme Court Rules Officer's Report on Excessive Force is Public Record
The highest court in the state ruled that reports written by police officers to explain why they chose to use force, known as officer reports, are public information. The decision is against the city of Little Rock which argued that those reports were personnel issues and did not have to be released.
The ruling stems from an alleged incident of police brutality that happened outside of Ferneau's Restaurant back in October. A video shows Lt. David Hudson, an off-duty cop working security at the restaurant, repeatedly striking Chris Erwin in the face. Erwin has been accused disorderly conduct, among other charges.
Erwin's attorney Keith Hall says he got a tip to request other complaints of excessive force against Lt. Hudson. However, Little Rock refused to release the documents.
"I had information given to me that this was not the first time that Officer Hudson had been involved in an incident outside Ferneau's," says Hall.
Hall sued the city, citing the state's Freedom of Information Act. On February 16, the State Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that the documents were a matter of public record. From 2006 to 2011, Hudson had been accused of using excessive force four times.
An incident of February 6, 2011, also took place outside of Ferneau's. According to Hudson's Officer's Report, "Mr. Cooper was resisting this entire time and it was after being struck that I knew I needed to escalate my use of force to gain control of Mr. Cooper. I still had the suspect on the ground and he was struggling to get free. I struck Mr. Cooper three times in the face and at this time he stopped resisting and I was able to take him into custody."
During a narcotics raid in December 2006, Hudson allegedly injured a suspect. In his report, Hudson explains, "He refused to listen to my orders to be still, and I grabbed Mr. Parks and pinned him to the ground." During another drug bust in 2009, a suspect complained that Hudson chipped his teeth and spit on him. Hudson's report says, "I believe the video clearly shows that I did not spit on him. At no time did I use any force that I felt was excessive."
However, Hall believes these reports will show a pattern. That's something he plans to use when Erwin's case goes before a judge next week.
"I'd like to see my client acquitted, and I think once you look at the video and once you consider Lt. Hudson's past, you'll see that Chris Erwin is not guilty of anything."
In Hudson's report for the Erwin case Hudson explains, "The strikes to the face of Mr. Erwin were necessary to gain control, and once I felt I had him under control, I ceased striking Mr. Erwin."
KATV reached out to the Little Rock Police Department for a comment on the court's ruling and received this response: "The Little Rock Police Department has complied with the order and will be reviewing department policy as it may relate to the ruling in the future."