As predicted, the City Board of Directors voted against an ordinance to require new police officer hires to be residents of Little Rock. The vote was 6 to 4, with Directors Erma Hendrix, who introduced the ordinance; Ken Richardson, Doris Wright and Kathy Webb voting for passage. Webb’s vote kept the board from dividing along racial lines on the ordinance.
Of the LRPD’s 527 sworn officers, 350 live outside Little Rock, or 66 percent; 177 live in Little Rock. (More figures here on city employee residency.)
The ordinance said a residency requirement would improve the city’s “ability to respond more quickly to City needs, especially in times of emergency,” “promote greater community involvement both during the work period and afterwards” and “enhance the overall quality of life within the community.” The ordinance also noted that a new city sales tax provided additional pay for police and fire employees.
The Democrat-Gazette this morning reported that white police officer John Gilchrist, the vice president of the Little Rock Fraternal Order of Police, accused Hendrix of “profiling,” and repeated the unfortunate remark made by Police Chief Kenton Buckner at the last board meeting that people don’t want to live in Little Rock because of the public schools.
Yes, some of the public schools are in trouble. But some of the finest schools in Arkansas are in the Little Rock Public School District. They also happen to be majority black. So is it education or the color of the students that bothers the out-of-towners?
Pulaski Circuit Judge Wendell Griffin, who supported the ordinance, was quoted in the Dem-Gaz as telling the board, “Do we want police officers to be neighbors or occupiers?”