Saturday, August 13, 2022

Keith Humphrey: Little Rock’s Black Police Chief Faces Off with Police Union Resistance to Change

Keith Humphrey (YouTube screenshot)
Little Rock Police Chief Keith Humphrey (YouTube screenshot)

*In Little Rock, Arkansas the Black Chief of Police, Keith Humphrey, has been targeted by the police union and other old-guard officials to unseat him.

Among a growing cohort of Black police chiefs, Humphrey has been gunning for substantial LRPD (Little Rock Arkansas Police Dept.) reforms since his appointment in 2019 by Mayor Frank Scott, the city’s first Black elected chief executive, according to an investigative deep-dive by The Intercept.

As reported by Radley Balko, author of the best-selling book “Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces,” the feature also details a pattern of historic discrimination against Black officers and the influence of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP). This is an epic tale about a police department riven by race and the strength of the forces arrayed against change — a tour de force of reporting that speaks to policing issues across the country.

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Humphrey has been subject to numerous lawsuits and department complaints, which allege, among other things, a hostile work environment, unjust retaliation, and sexual harrassment. Yet interviews with more than 20 current and retired officers and civilian employees, plus a review of hundreds of pages of emails, public records, and text messages, reveal that many of these accusations do not stand up to factual or legal scrutiny. Instead, Balko’s reporting uncovers a different narrative: one of an effort, driven in part by FOP members, to oust Humphrey.

More broadly, Balko’s interviews with Black officers paint a picture of a deeply divided police department – one that officers say passes over them for career-building opportunities and promotions if they speak out against racism, brutality, corruption, or profiling of Little Rock’s Black residents.

“It isn’t just Chief Humphrey. It’s Black police leaders all over the U.S.,” said Johnny Gilbert Jr., a Black lieutenant who retired in 2019 after 35 years at LRPD. “They struggle to be seen as legitimate by the establishment. Does that sort of disrespect trickle down and affect the morale of Black officers? You bet it doe

Keith Humphrey (YouTube screenshot)
Keith Humphrey (YouTube screenshot)

The piece also highlights the tension between Little Rock’s two police unions: the FOP, which, some say, seeks to maintain the status quo, and the unofficial Little Rock Black Police Officers Association (LRBPOA). Many Black officers told Balko the LRBPOA is necessary because not only does the FOP fail to represent their interests, it also often works against them – yet only the FOP is authorized to collectively bargain with the city

While Balko’s investigation is focused on Little Rock, its implications stretch beyond Arkansas’ borders. His reporting offers a crucial look at the pressures and challenges that many Black police leaders meet when attempting to change the system from within, and raises the question of whether or not, in the face of these obstacles, true radical reform is possible.

Read the FULL story at The Intercept

About Radley Balko
Radley Balko reports on criminal justice, the drug war and civil liberties for The Washington Post. He is author of the books “Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces” and “The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist: A True Story of Injustice in the American South” (co-authored with Tucker Carrington). His work has been cited by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Mississippi Supreme Court and two federal appeals courts. He also occasionally writes about the music and culture of Nashville, where he lives.

About The Intercept
The Intercept is an award-winning nonprofit news organization dedicated to holding the powerful accountable through fearless, adversarial journalism. Its in-depth investigations and unflinching analysis focus on surveillance, war, corruption, the environment, technology, criminal justice, the media and more.
source: Schuyler Mitchell – TheIntercept.com

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