Arkansas Law Enforcement

An Arkansas State Police-backed proposal to restrict cellphone use while driving has failed in a state House committee.

The Public Transportation Committee voted 11-7 Tuesday against the bill, which would prohibit drivers in motion from using a wireless device to dial a phone number, use social media or utilize a map application. It would also allow officers to pull over people suspected of using their phones while driving.

Arkansas already bans texting while driving and some cellphone use. The bill would not apply to law enforcement or people making emergency calls.

Dogpatch USA

North Arkansas authorities say a fire has destroyed three buildings at a former theme park.

The Newton County sheriff's office received a report early Sunday about a fire at Dogpatch USA, a former attraction based on Al Capp's "Li'l Abner" comic strip. It closed in 1993.

Glenn Wheeler, fire chief of the Krooked Kreek Volunteer Fire Department, says one building already was destroyed and two others were engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived. Wheeler says a fourth building caught fire but had minimal damage. He says the cause of the fire is under investigation.

Authorities say pneumonia resulting from mixed drug intoxication killed a man charged in the 2013 traffic death of a Conway police officer.

The Log Cabin Democrat reports that Barry Strickland's death certificate says he had a mix of morphine, amphetamine, muscle relaxer, and anti-anxiety medications in his system when he was found dead at his parents' house in November.

police body cameras
Jayme Goad / KUAR News

An anonymous $10,000 donation will be used to purchase body cameras for the Texarkana, Texas, police department.

The Texarkana Gazette reports the city council on Monday approved placing the contribution in the police department's budget to buy the devices.

Chief Daniel Shiner says the money will help buy about 20 body cameras for officers.

The police department recently was contacted by a resident who wanted to donate the money specifically for the purchase of the body-worn audio and video devices.

Arkansas Police Departments Testing Body Cameras

Feb 5, 2015
police body cameras north little rock
Jayme Goad / KUAR News

Several central Arkansas police departments are considering buying body cameras for officers to wear. In light of several recent police incidents around the country, federal money is being directed toward helping equip agencies with the technology. 

Captain Jay Kovach with the North Little Rock Police Department said as he picked up one of the devices, “What I would like to see is anytime an officer has contact with a citizen or is taking some type of police action, he just simply hits the button and is recording.”

As African American communities continue to confront the reality of strained relations with police departments around the nation, a similar movement is taking place in Little Rock. On Thursday from 6 to 9 p.m., the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center will host a community forum and film screening called "Law, Order and Community."

The goal is to provide for a “cleansing and productive dialogue” on relations between communities and law enforcement.

Arkansas law enforcement officials say they would like to equip their officers with body cameras but that their cost may prevent it.

Benton County Sheriff Kelley Cradduck says the cost of body cameras - more than $1,000 per camera - is a problem.

Cradduck says body cameras can help law enforcement in two ways. The Northwest Arkansas Times reports  cameras can clear a deputy of false allegations. Cameras can also provide evidence if a deputy abuses his authority.

Hernando de Soto Bridge spanning the Mississippi River between West Memphis, AR and Memphis, TN.

The FBI wants law officers assigned to areas around the Mississippi River bridges at Memphis, Tennessee, to keep an eye on the spans after a vague threat that one would be blown up. FBI spokesmen said Tuesday the threat was unsubstantiated but that local police were still notified.

Two cross-country routes traverse the Mississippi River at Memphis - Interstates 40 and 55. They remained open.

Elected officials in a northeast Arkansas town have voted to create a police department after more than 20 years without one.

KAIT-TV reports the Batesville City Council voted unanimously Wednesday night to re-establish the department. The Independence County Sheriff's Department had been providing law enforcement services since 1981, after the city discontinued its police force.

Arkansas Capitol
Ron Breeding / KUAR News

Recent decisions by federal grand juries to not indict police officers in the deaths of unarmed black men in Ferguson, Missouri and New York have stirred protesters around the country.

In Little Rock, a small group of organizers is planning a “silent protest” this weekend. They hope to call attention to and help mend tensions between black communities and the local police.

KUAR's Chris Hickey caught up with Jessica Lawson, who, along with Mondale Robinson, is organizing the event.