With the clouds of tear gas barely dissipated over Baltimore and Ferguson, Mo., word comes that the Little Rock Police Department hopes to fit 535 of their officers with riot gear. Because nothing says “community policing” like having a warehouse somewhere stuffed with enough batons, shields, gas masks and flat-black helmets to outfit a small army.
LRPD spokesperson Cassandra Davis tells KARK that the recent unrest in Baltimore was the impetus behind the move, saying: “We have to be prepared if there is an incident like that, should it occur here.” Currently, Davis said, the department only has riot gear for 45 officers of the Department’s Special Response Unit. We’ve got a call in to the LRPD to ask about the plan
Reached at his office in Little Rock, Arkansas NAACP president Dale Charles said that outfitting over 500 LRPD officers with riot gear is a misuse of taxpayer funds, and would send the wrong message to the community.
“We’re not in Iraq. We’re not in Afghanistan,” Charles said. “To me, it’s a waste of money. Some of that money could go back into training police officers how to better deal with diversity in the community… They’re already equipped with [armored vehicles]. To outfit 535 police officers with riot gear just doesn’t make any sense. ”
Charles said that if the city board allows the LRPD to purchase the riot gear, it would be “a huge mistake” that could turn citizens against any future efforts to obtain new revenue for the city.
“We went out and helped campaign to get the sales tax passed,” Charles said, “and now they’re using this money for riot gear when that money could be going into the city to fix sidewalks and drainage? It’s poor judgement… When they get ready for another bond issue or another tax, we’re going to try to educate the community and vote against it.”