by Max Brantley
City Director Erma Hendrix, with support from Ken Richardson, is back with a proposal to make more city employees be residents of the city. She has an ordinance to be discussed tonight that would require new police and fire hires to be city residents. This protects the current huge number who live elsewhere.
For whatever reason, the people who control city government in Little Rock have never wanted to press the issue about paying nice salaries and retirement benefits to people who reject living in the city they serve. It's a particularly sensitive issue to me on the part of cops. I don't think it's a stretch to see in their rejection of the city — in at least some cases — an attitude toward the city and people who live here that infects the way they interact with the people they meet every day.
It's the kind of attitude in which a solid citizen with a legitimate beef about a suspicious man in his neighborhood can find himself tossed to the ground, cuffed and swallowing a mouthful of grass for "invading the personal space" of a police officer who sounds every bit like Kenny Powers on "Eastbound and Down." We know about this case because a well-to-do doctor in a comfortable neighbhorhood was on the receiving end of cop bullying in support of a brother-in-arms private dick for the billionaire Warren Stephens. You can only guess at what people in rougher neighborhoods endure as a matter of daily course.
The city says more than half of its employees aren't residents. I'm trying to get a departmental breakdown. My suspicion is that the percentage is higher in the public safety realm, but I may be wrong.
UPDATE: A friend who works with public employees in Little Rock comments:
I don't have the exact percentage but the non-uniformed employees are mostly residents of the city. They of course are paid less, receive a lower defined contribution pension plan (might amount to $35,000 to live on post retirement for the luckiest), and many are required to come into work in inclement weather (to make sure the police cars can drive on the ice). These same folks fought for the sales tax and will actually shop in the city instead of shopping for refrigerators on McCain Boulevard, in Benton or Conway.