Does a falling tree make a sound if there's no one in the forest? Do police continue to get away with sloppy, abusive or otherwise questionable practices if nobody knows about them? Recent exposures of the Little Rock Police Department naturally raise the question
NATIONAL EXPOSURE: A Washington Post expose has for the second time put a negative spotlight on the LRPD. But does anybody in Little Rock, including major media, know or care?
Here at the Times, we've promoted Balko's reporting on the blog, on Twitter and on Facebook. We noted the previous muted city response — mostly defensive save from some concern from Vice Mayor Kathy Webb and Director Doris Wright.
FROM BALKO REPORT
The failure of most in the city to complain about Chief Kenton Buckner's sorry reign as chief (Director Ken Richardson often had some probing questions) indicates that most simply don't care how poorly trained, how poorly vetted and how frequently Little Rock police are forgiven for misconduct and brutality. Reason: Police failings mostly happen in the poorer quarters where the ragged people go, to quote Paul Simon. The majority white police force (most of whom live in the suburbs to avoid Little Rock crime and majority black schools) are not held to account. It was one of Buckner's greatest shames as a black man himself that he aligned himself with the Fraternal Order of Police and became a foe of black police officers. He'll be gone by Nov. 16 (indeed I doubt we'll see much of him officially again except when he picks up a final paycheck — and I wonder how much accrued leave time he'll claim, hopefully not in Mayor Mark Stodola's $170,000 range.) But the FOP is still with us. Still using traffic stops as community policing. Still rousting people like civil rights lawyer John Walker. Still endorsing Republicans for political office because, well, that's who they are.
It's time for a change. Radley Balko, who talks about his work in the video at top, has illustrated that with mountains of evidence. Has anybody heard him?
Credit where due to mayoral candidate Warwick Sabin, who issued a statement yesterday on Balko's latest (another item I didn't see reported in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, which was busy devoting yards of space to poor oppressed Johnny Key for trying to fire teachers at majority black schools). Said Sabin:
“The report published today in the Washington Post further validates my earlier call for an independent external review of LRPD policies, procedures, training, and culture with the goal of systemic reform that adheres to nationally-recognized best practices. We need to do that to ensure fair and equitable treatment for our citizens, to regain the faith and confidence of our community, and to create a more effective and efficient police force. This is why I also have called for the creation of an independent citizens commission to review LRPD actions since I began my campaign for mayor.
Furthermore, as we have the opportunity to hire a new police chief, the mayor — not the city manager — must lead that process so that someone elected by, and accountable to, all of the citizens of Little Rock can make the changes that are clearly necessary to improve the quality of our public safety efforts. I will make this a top priority as your next mayor, and we will finally address the long-standing issues that have impeded progress in our city with honesty and transparency.”