The City Board is set to vote tonight on an ordinance to require future police officers to reside in Little Rock. The ordinance was drafted at the request of Ward 1 Director Erma Hendrix. Directors Ken Richardson and Doris Wright, the board’s other African American members, support the ordinance. Director Kathy Webb said today she is “leaning” toward supporting it, “but I am still not 100 percent decided.”
Hendrix and others believe that white officers from, for example, Cabot are not racially sensitive to Little Rock’s black community, and while that is probably not completely true, it probably is true that officers from Little Rock have more connection to the residents of Little Rock and a deeper interest in good relations.
Little Rock’s population is 43.5 percent black. Its sworn officer force is 67 percent white. Of the 527 sworn officers, 350 live outside Little Rock, or 66 percent; 177 live in Little Rock.
Those who argued against the before the board’s last meeting, including Police Chief Kenton Buckner and City Director B.J. Wyrick, said the residency requirement would make the pool of good applicants too small. Unfortunately, Buckner also said people don’t want to live in Little Rock because of the school system. As someone who has not lived in Little Rock very long, he appears to have been swayed by those who like to paint the Little Rock School District with a broadly critical and unfair brush.
If there are city leaders don’t think Little Rock is a good place to live, they should do something about it or step aside and let someone who cares take take their place.
More race and residency figures supplied by the city:
It’s not just the police force that is dominated by non-residents: Of all 1,896 city employees, only 803, or 42 percent, live in Little Rock. There are 1,137 white employees (60 percent) and 711 black employees (38 percent), which almost reflects population demographics.
Of the 803 employees who live in Little Rock, 468 are black (66 percent of all black employees), 310 are white (27 percent of all white employees) and 25 are Hispanic, Asian or “other.”
There are 654 employees — uniformed and non-uniformed — of the LRPD, 419 white (64 percent), 220 black (34 percent) and 15 “other” (2 percent). Of the white employees, 94, or only 22 percent, live in Little Rock. Of the black employees, 132, or 60 percent, live in Little Rock.
LRPD employees from outside Little Rock hail from 42 cities and towns. The city with the highest number is North Little Rock, with 32 white, 27 black, 1 Hispanic and 2 “other.” Some other cities with a high number of Little Rock police employees (uniformed and non-uniformed):
Benton: 54 employees (47 white and 9 black)
Bryant: 40 (31 white and 8 black)
Maumelle: 32 (29 white, 2 black and 1 Asian)
Sherwood: 31 (21 white 8 black, 1 Asian, 1 Hispanic)
Alexander: 30 (22 white, 7 black and one “Indian”)
Cabot: 30 (28 white and 2 Hispanic)
Conway: 17 (13 white and 4 black)
Jacksonville: 16 (9 white and 7 black)
Little Rock Fire Department demographics are not in sync with the city’s: Of its 415 employees, 94 are black (23 percent) and 313 white (75 percent).
Also, as a percentage, more of the Little Rock Fire Department’s white employees live outside the city: Only 48 white employees (15 percent) reside here, 265 reside elsewhere (85 percent). Black employees are more evenly split: 53 (56 percent) live in Little Rock, 41 live elsewhere (44 percent).
The police residency ordinance to be considered tonight is not the first of its kind: A similar ordinance failed in 2012, and an ordinance that required residency two decades ago was repealed after one year. A vote along racial lines would indicate Little Rock’s leaders need a come to Jesus meeting about their differences and the state of race relations in the city.