In new report, Arkansas Justice Collective says FPD improved marijuana-related responses but can do more


FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The Arkansas Justice Collective released its second “Myth of Progress” report Thursday. The document noted Fayetteville’s criminal justice system dramatically decreased its arrests and charges concerning marijuana, but in a Thursday press conference the group’s activists called on the city and police to do more.

In the report’s listed data, the group noted marijuana-related arrests dropped 66% since the first report was released in June 2019. The original report used department statistics to calculate that between 2008-2019, the number of marijuana arrests increased by 284% despite a population increase of only 13%.

“Myth of Progress 2020” noted the police department and city administration responded.

“The mayor and the city police responded with a commitment to doing better,” the document read. “As a direct result of the 2019 report, the chief of police now meets weekly with the mayor to discuss arrests, including demographic information.”

Clint Schnekloth is a Fayetteville pastor and member of the group, and he said decision-makers need to implement other recommendations, including completely ending misdemeanor marijuana arrests and dropping charges, implementing a Citizens Review Board for oversight purposes and ending the contract with the Drug Task Force.

“There are still issues that are arising continually, and we still haven’t seen action on the recommendations that came at the end of the report,” Schnekloth said.

Chief Mike Reynolds with the Fayetteville Police Dept. said only one person has been arrested for a marijuana-related charge in 2020, a 94% reduction from the previous year. In 2019, officers issued 89 marijuana-related citations, which has fallen to 15 in 2020.

Reynolds said it would be nearly impossible to do more without a change in state laws.

“Our ordinance says marijuana is the lowest-level priority, but then you have a state law that says marijuana’s against the law,” Reynolds said. “You have to balance that in certain situations, and I think we’re doing a great job of that.”

Reynolds said the police department does have oversight in city council, and the department posts weekly statistics for transparency purposes. He added he’s concerned about other pandemic-related trends, like a 27% increase in violent crime, six homicides and 17 shootings (five of which concerned drug deals that included marijuana).

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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