At a 1 p.m. press conference at Little Rock Police Department headquarters near downtown today, LRPD Chief Kenton Buckner asked citizens to keep Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights, Minn. and Dallas in their prayers, saying that violence and destruction of property would not be tolerated in Little Rock during demonstrations over police use of force.
Buckner went on to thank what he called “the countless number of people who have reached out” by phone and social media to express their thanks and condolences to the Little Rock Police Department since news broke of the killing of
four five police officers and the wounding of six seven others in a coordinated sniper attack in Dallas late last night. Buckner said the department will continue to monitor events in Little Rock to make sure they can appropriately respond.
There was little noticeable police presence at a noon demonstration by supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement at the State Capitol today.
After Buckner opened the floor to questions, a Little Rock citizen who identified herself as Judy Kendall asked Buckner if there was some way for the LRPD and officials in other states to solve the problem of black men being killed by police and no one being held accountable. The shooting in Dallas, she said, wasn’t about protest. It was about a four-year-old girl seeing her father shot, referring to the death of Philando Castile during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights, Minn. on Wednesday. A young child was in the car with her mother at the time Castile was killed.
“Four-hundred and some black men have been shot and nothing is being done,” Kendall told Buckner. “What can black people rely on?”
Buckner said that the challenges the nation are facing are well documented, and that he not naive enough to doubt that, in come cases, police have taken questionable or criminal actions in those cases. “I’m in agreement that we need to work together as a community and as a police department to solve some of these issues,” Buckner said. “But I can assure you there’s enough blame to go around the table for everybody involved. We cannot speak buzzwords and catchphrase our way out of that. These are very serious issues that we’re having, and I’m sorry that we had to have something happen like we had in Dallas in order to have a wake-up call that we have something we need to address, not only in our city but in our country.”
Asked by a reporter if the shootings in Dallas will cause officers to be more apprehensive while on the job, Buckner said that it’s a feeling that “didn’t start with Dallas.”
“We have that same feeling walking up to a window on a traffic stop,” Buckner said, “or going to a home or business on a routine call. There’s no such thing as a routine call. So that fear or anxiousness that we have didn’t start last night. It was illuminated last night.”
Buckner said that he has attended Black Lives Matter forums and gatherings, and has asked activists with the group to speak to LRPD recruit classes, so new officers won’t be exposed to the philosophy of Black Lives Matter “for the first time when they hit the street.” Buckner said he doesn’t believe in having an adversarial relationship, even with groups he has a disagreement with. “It’s important that we set aside those differences so we can reach a common destination, one of which is public safety,” he said.
Buckner said ongoing efforts to build “preexisting relationships” between the LRPD and the community are crucial in times of crisis like the incident last night in Dallas.
“When you have your Dallas Moment,” Buckner said, “you cannot reach out to people who know nothing about you, and have had no contact with you, during the incident. There has to be a preexisting relationship so people will accept your phone call at two in the morning to say ‘Hey, we need help.’ We have those relationships in place, and we continue to build bridges every day.”