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At a community meeting last night at the Wille Hinton center, Bruce Moore, Little Rock city manager, and police Chief Kenton Buckner faced questions and suggestions from dozens of upset community members over use of increased traffic stops as "community policing."
The issues ranged from housing to lack of jobs, but often came back to the problem of poor police interactions.
Ward 2 City Director Ken Richardson had called the meeting to address a series of emails he'd sent to Moore with the subject line "Crisis in Our Community," detailing poor interactions between his constituents and the police.
“One day you’re treated like a trespasser in your community, the next day you’re treated like a friend," Richardson said. "They're sick and tired of it."
Richardson connected the recent problems — including multiple times seeing 4 to 5 police cars pulled over beside traffic stops on Asher Avenue — as a part of the increased overtime given to police on Aug 17.
Police have said that this overtime allowed them to create a patrol unit that does not respond to certain calls and, instead, roams areas with high crime rates.
Buckner, and Assistant Chief Hayward Finks, said the increased overtime has led to less violence and more productive police stops of vehicles. They presented data that showed traffic citations rose by 6.3% and traffic warnings rose by 138% in the last 73 days (since Aug 17). Shots fired calls have declined by 31.9%.
"The numbers show that it is working," Finks told the gathered crowd. "The calls for shots fired have come down."
Finks said that the department is focusing on "constructive contacts." This means when someone is pulled over in these neighborhoods it is not always to arrest or give a ticket but just talk to people. With staffing issues, Finks, who used to walk a beat as a community police officer, said stopping cars is their current iteration of community policing.
But multiple community members said that increased traffic stops would not help solve homicides.
“It helps make various relationships in these communities worse," Richardson said.
"There is not a correlation," Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen said, "[where the] more traffic stops you make, the homicides go down."
He said police cannot "police a neighborhood out of violence; it hasn’t happened." In order to solve the issues, he said, the city must recognize that "before you get to a homicide, there is political violence, there is economic violence."
He mentioned the lack of jobs and resources in many neighborhoods in Ward 2. "Eventually those are communities where you have a high increase in crime and you can bring the biggest police force you want but if you don’t address the causes you never affect cures," he said.
Russ Racop, a local blogger, made a video depicting most of the meeting which you can view here.