by Ryan Nix
In a press conference Monday morning, Representative Vivan Flowers (D-District 17) and Arkansas House District 34 Candidate Ryan Davis shared details of alleged harassment following a fundraiser on February 3. Flowers and Davis also detailed policy changes they hoped to implement in response to their experiences and the police officers who were called to the scene.
According to Flowers, while she and Davis spoke by her parked car after the fundraiser, a woman emerged from a neighboring house and began hurling abuse. “We were standing where my car was parked and she started screaming loudly, saying ‘I don’t know who you are’ and that she was going to call the police,” says Flowers, “Well, it’s 2020 and we laughed. I put on my flip flops and told her I’ll wait for the police. We continued to talk, then two men come out and began to yell and cuss at us.”
Throughout the altercation, Flowers and Davis tried to explain they were on a public street and should be allowed to interact peacefully.
At that point, a different woman came outside. “The woman across the street began shouting that we don’t belong there, that we should go home,” says Flowers. “At some point, that lady screamed ‘Drop Dead,’ and we heard a gunshot.” At that point, Flowers called the police, giving dispatch information about her and Davis’ personal descriptions, the neighborhood and their situation. The police shortly appeared, approaching Flowers and Davis with guns drawn.
“They told us to put our hands in the air, which we did,” says Flowers. She then notes that Bill Kopsky, the event’s host had come out and was arguing with the police. “Bill walked toward them, saying ‘That’s a legislator, and that’s a candidate. I’ve called my city council representative and the supervisor.’ At that point, the officers’ energy changed,” says Flowers. “They explained that their approach was police protocol, which I understood.”
The woman who shouted that Davis and Flowers should “drop dead” was cited for terroristic threatening. Flowers explained that, considering everything that could have gone wrong during their interaction with city residents and the police, certain measures need to be taken to ensure just and equitable treatment for all people in future cases.
“There is no reason why we should not have police body cams across the state, no reason why we should not be collecting data,” says Flowers. “Our state police does an awesome job, but if we care about people before they become a hashtag, we must take action.” Rep. Flowers has already reached out within the Arkansas General Assembly and to Governor Hutchinson to work on funding for universal body cams for Arkansas police.
Flowers also pushed for a review on police procedures and re-examining how Arkansas handles false police reports. “There should be legislation focused on punishing false police reports. Doing anything while black, white, brown or anything should not be an excuse to weaponize the police or emergency services,” says Flowers.
Under Arkansas state law, filing false police reports is already a misdemeanor and may become a felony, depending on the situation and/or outcome of the false report. Understanding this, Flowers hopes legislation would codify these laws, saying “There are laws on the books, but the procedures are not being followed.”
Davis and Flowers both pushed for a review on the police procedures they faced on February 3. “There is only an inch between the violence of a gun and an innocent person,” says Davis. “I don’t accept that our situation requires multiple officers drawing guns on the people who called them.” Flowers agrees, saying “We want our police officers to be safe, but to ensure that we need clear rules of engagement with a clear and consistent application of law for everyone.” Flowers continued, clarifying that everyone, regardless of their status as victim or suspect, should be treated with dignity and their lives should be preserved when possible.
Beyond their harasser being cited with terroristic threatening, Flowers and Davis filed a complaint about the incident with the Pulaski County prosecuting attorney’s office and the Little Rock Citizens Review Board. They hope the police will arrest the threatening woman and the Citizens Review Board will investigate the appropriateness of the police response to the incident.
Davis heads the Children’s International nonprofit at UALR. Tomorrow, a runoff election will determine whether Ryan Davis or Joy Springer will represent the Democratic Party in District 34. The winner faces independent candidate Roderick Talley, who lost in District 36 last year and was arrested for driving with a suspended license and blocking a roadway after filming Hope City police issuing a citation to another motorist.