KENTON BUCKNER



On two occasions in his out-of-court testimony in lawsuits over the firing of police recruits, Little Rock Police Chief Kenton Buckner acknowledged he’d used racial epithets since he was 16.

He was being questioned by Robert Newcomb, attorney for two police recruits fired for having been found to have quoted racial epithets in song lyrics on Facebook pages. Buckner said he’d used the words “nigger” and “nigga” since he was 16, but provided no elaboration or context.

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Newcomb provided me a copy of Buckner’s deposition (sworn testimony) today. He’d told me about it yesterday. Newcomb’s point is that both Brandon Schiefelbein, who is white, and Katina Jones, who is black, had been fired for discovery of their quotation of song lyrics containing the word “nigga” in years past. In Jones case, she was 16 when she quoted a Lil Wayne lyric. She was 25 when fired. She has said her Facebook page wasn’t open to the public, but someone gained access and shared the post with the police department after racial social media comments became an issue.

Another black recruit, Brandon Gurley, has a lawsuit pending for being fired over a similar infraction, as well as allegedly lying to superiors during an investigation. Newcomb settled the Schiefelbein and Jones claims for a total payment of $50,000 and removal of “termination” from their personnel records. They will not be rehired.

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Newcomb also told me that City Manager Bruce Moore had pledged to investigate Buckner’s use of racial epithets and report on disciplinary action, if any. It’s Newcomb’s contention that if the recruits should be fired for use of racial epithets, Buckner should be fired as well.

The deposition reveals other racial tensions in the department, including discipline of a black officer who objected to being assigned to an otherwise all-white group of officers on a trip to Texarkana and a complaint by the Fraternal Order of Police that a black employee had “liked” on her Facebook page a performer, 21 Savage, who used “bitch, hoe, nigga, nigger, anti-police language and pigs” in his songs. He said he did not reprimand the employee for “liking” the songs because there’s no department process on approval or disapproval of Facebook posts.

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Here’s the full deposition.

Buckner has not responded to my request for comment. His deposition also mentioned he had deleted his own Facebook account, but said it was because it was related to a car club and it drew too many comments unrelated to the car club.

Moore said he would be responding to Newcomb and that he’d share that response.

City Attorney Tom Carpenter said the agreement to settle the lawsuit by two recruits contained no provision related to Newcomb’s complaint about Buckner’s use of the racial terms.

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Editorial: LRPD went overboard in responding to recruits’ quotation of song lyrics. Current conduct is more important than youthful conduct. Buckner shouldn’t be punished for honesty, particularly if his use of derogatory terms were in private and perhaps in an understandable context. Certain words are best left unsaid, in public or private. The Little Rock police department has a racial problem much larger than a quotation of offensive song lyrics. The problem is the city’s problem.