Columns » Max Brantley

In black and white

The men and women who patrol Little Rock in black and white vehicles tell a story in black and white.

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The men and women who patrol Little Rock in black and white vehicles tell a story in black and white.

In a city that is about 50 percent black and brown, the police force is about 30 percent black. Only 20 percent of the white officers live in the city of Little Rock. The majority of black officers, about 60 percent, live in the city.

The white-dominated Fraternal Order of Police chapter has blamed the city's crime problem and schools for the preference of so many white officers for other cities. The word "schools" is, for many, a code. Little Rock schools are about 15 percent white and poor.

Police Chief Kenton Buckner is black, but he's an authoritarian viewed with distrust by the Little Rock Black Police Officers Association. His idea of community policing is to step up traffic stops in the inner city. An inner city anti-crime group rankles Chief Buckner as well, with its criticism of community-police relations.

Last week, that group was working with Russ Racop, a blogger on government topics and a candidate for the City Board, to expose a Facebook comment by a member of the current crop of Little Rock police recruits, a white officer from Cabot. "Go night night nigga," was the caption for his photo of a sleeping fellow soldier posted in 2013. The Black Police Officers want the recruit fired. The recruit who posted the photo said, through a lawyer, that he had only quoted a line from comedian Kevin Hart. He said the sleeping friend had seen it and had no problem. That sounds like a reasonable explanation — as well as another reminder that white people should resist using racial epithets as black people do among themselves. Less persuasive from the FOP lawyer's defense was his citation of the use of the N-word by a black recruit in Facebook dialogue with HIS friends.

Racop also dug up more social media commentary by another white police officer. He wrote on Facebook that the city is a "craphole" thanks to liberal policymakers such as Mayor Mark Stodola, whom he blamed for making Little Rock a "sanctuary city." (The Little Rock police force doesn't run immigration checks on every brown resident who reports a crime for the good reason that this discourages police cooperation.)

This particular cop is also anti-Muslim, to the point that he seemed to suggest genocide as a solution. His support for neo-Confederate causes was benign by comparison.

Complaints have now been filed about this officer. It's difficult territory. Cops are entitled to opinions. And government has restrictions on what steps it can take against those who express opinions, however odious.

Whatever the outcome, it's evident that race is a city problem and a problem among people hired to keep the peace. In a way, I welcome the openly bigoted. Who knows how many others of his thinking we've hired?

I'm reminded again of the crazy incentive — free cars — given to 188 officers to commute to homes outside tLittle Rock, not to mention the no-strings $5,000 recruit bonus. I'm not ready to join those who believe we should have a police residency requirement in Little Rock, but I think all incentives should be based on residency, not serve as a disincentive to city residency.

If I'm black, brown or Muslim it wouldn't make me feel warm all over to be stopped by a cop in a black and white vehicle driven home to some white-flight community every night.

Missing to date in Little Rock: leadership doing anything about the problem. Instead they make it worse, by aiding destruction of the city school district by N.orthwest Arkansas billionaires and by neighborhood-ravaging freeway expansion designed to get Cabot workers out of this craphole faster every night.

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