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Examination of the Incidents of Deaths in Relation to Police Custody in Arkansas

NCJ Number
Amy C. VanHouten; Bob Edward Vasquez; Jeffery T. Walker; Sean Maddan; Gwen Earvin-McLarty
Date Published
34 pages
This report provides data and information on the prevalence and circumstances of the deaths of individuals under the custody of law enforcement officials in Arkansas.
Data indicate that overall, in-custody deaths in Arkansas are rare. A review of media accounts shows that seven in-custody deaths were reported for the State from 1995 to 2004. Four of the deaths involved a struggle with police; all of the incidents involved police use of pepper spray. Five of the incidents involved suspects under the influence of substance abuse, with the majority of such incidents involving resisting arrest. No punitive action was taken against any of the police involved in these incidents. In addition to the analysis of media reports of in-custody deaths, data were also obtained from Federal data obtained under the Deaths in Custody Reporting Act (DICRA) for Arkansas. This national collection effort relies on a network of statewide data reporters who collectively represent more than 17,000 law enforcement agencies. The Arkansas DICRA information for the current report covers only the year 2003. A survey was sent to all law enforcement agencies in the State requesting data on in-custody deaths. Resulting data were compiled in the State’s DICRA database. For 2003, 17 such deaths were reported statewide. Approximately 35 percent of the deaths were determined to be suicide from hanging, although some of these deaths were labeled asphyxiations. Death determined to be from natural causes composed approximately 47 percent of all in-custody deaths. Remaining deaths were due to “unknown causes,“ meaning that the data did not include specific causes. 17 references