Little Rock City Director Lance Hines has called for a City Board vote of no-confidence in Police Chief Keith Humphrey next week and Humphrey’s supporters have organized opposition.
Mike Laux, who’s the lawyer for Humphrey in a federal lawsuit alleging a conspiracy of police and others to run him off, distributed a news release today that includes a statement sent to members of the City Board. It is signed by more than 100 people, many familiar political and civic figures.
The signers are mostly African-American. And the statement indicates, as lead organizer Marion Humphrey, a retired judge, has said previously that race is at the root of resistance to Humphrey. He is Black, as is Mayor Frank Scott Jr., who appointed him and has remained supportive. The statement says:
While we are steadfast in our deep love of Little Rock, we are nonetheless cognizant of its historical struggles surrounding the question of race. We proudly bear the collective scars of these battles, all the while trying to push our City toward a more perfect union. Entrenched forces inevitably marshal to resist the societal progress Little Rock seeks—they wish to return us to a time when a powerful majority imposed its self-advancing will on an oppressed minority, constitutional rights notwithstanding. When this happens, it is our duty to speak out.
The statement outlines steps taken during the Humphrey era — a citizens review board, curtailing of no-knock warrants, the prohibition of chokeholds, a nepotism policy. It recalls resistance 20 years ago to the first black chief, Lawrence Johnson, and efforts to treat employees equally. He was foiled by “institutional powers,” the statement said, undoubtedly a reference to the Fraternal Order of Police, which has already expressed no confidence in Humphrey. The Black Police Officers Association backs him.
The statement details court action against Humphrey; defends his decision to fire Charles Starks for the fatal shooting of a Black man suspected of driving a stolen car, and said, among others, “Chief Humphrey and his wife have been the victim of a relentless onslaught of racially tinged harassment in the form of unwanted personal encounters, electronic harassment and other threats. ”
The news release said:
The attached, unprecedented statement in support of Chief Humphrey is intended to
apprise the Directors of the signees bases for supporting Chief Humphrey and their
demand that he be allowed to implement his reform agenda—one chosen by Little Rock voters—unfettered.
Voters chose Frank Scott. I’m not sure you could say they specifically voted for Humphrey’s “reform agenda,” though they did reject a runoff opponent, Baker Kurrus, who was endorsed by the FOP. Scott ran on a unity platform and hiring 100 more police officers. Both those goals have been elusive as he finishes his second year in office.