Scott Hamilton has seen his organization, the Urban League of the State of Arkansas, tackle a variety of societal issues during his two-and-a-half years at the helm.
Working on everything from hunger relief during the pandemic to gathering school supplies for underserved kids to reaction to police force in the wake of the George Floyd protests, Hamilton is disturbed by the recent viral video of three law enforcement officers in Crawford County violently subduing a suspect at a convenience store.
The Urban League put out a statement condemning the “extremely aggressive actions” and complimented the swift condemnation and investigation into the matter from local, state and federal law enforcement agencies.
“This is a human issue. And from the Urban League’s perspective, we look at the issues that affect our society for all folks. There’s not just a single group or a small group of folks that we are concerned about. We’re concerned about people across the board. It doesn’t matter, you know, what race, background or what have you. We are about making sure there’s a level of quality of life, an expectation of certain things that people can go about their day-to-day life and be able to enjoy. And one of those certainly is engagement with our law enforcement,” Hamilton said in an interview with Talk Business & Politics.
“That should be something that should not be a fearful or a scary engagement. It should be at least as respectful as possible. Certainly, there are times that there has to be some level of aggression to commandeer someone. But this one [incident] seemed to give rise to a lot more,” he added.
Hamilton was a member of a state law enforcement review task force created by Gov. Asa Hutchinson in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. The group met for months after clashes between protestors and police escalated in the wake of the George Floyd murder.
Hamilton believes it’s time to review those recommendations and study others to see if they are having the intended effect, since the Crawford County incident has come to light.
“The intent of that task force was to figure out how do we improve trust and engagement opportunities with law enforcement. Making sure that those engagements come out in a good fashion, if you will. Some of the recommendations were more training. We wanted to make sure our law enforcement officers are trained well in terms of when they engage with a suspect or someone that they need to apprehend.
“Also, we talked a lot about mental health, not only for citizens, but also in our officers, making sure that our officers can get good, welfare checks. Making sure they’re okay. On a daily basis, they deal with some pretty tough issues. We want to make sure that an officer goes in on a daily basis in a good frame of mind,” Hamilton said.
“We recommend body cams for all officers across the state. There’s a big cost to that. But I think that’s something that we, as a society, have to really look into. Body cameras not only protect the citizen, but also the officers,” he said. “Training is a big piece of what I think we have to do with our law enforcement officials. We have to make sure that, again, engagements are as good as they can be and that we don’t have issues that lead to something that we appear to see on that video.”
You can watch Hamilton’s full interview in the video below.