Little Rock mayoral candidate Frank Scott Jr. today ripped the Little Rock Fraternal Order of Police for “divisive politics” but more importantly called for a change in the form of Little Rock government.
His opponent, Baker Kurrus, responded that he’s been emphasizing ideas for making the mayor’s office stronger for months and suggested Scott was now responding to that, including Kurrus’ remarks to me yesterday about taking charge of the selection of a new police chief and generally having a city manager acting at his direction.
Scott responded to that at a news conference today, but also called for an enhanced role for the mayor and eventually a change in government to eliminate at-large city board representation.
I wrote earlier today about the FOP’s smear of Scott for being pictured with a man who’s made allegations about police misconduct. He was arrested in Wynne this week on an unrelated matter.
Scott said he has been focused on unifying the city. But, in reference to the FOP statements this week linking him to the Wynne arrest, he said:
“These type of divisive comments and practices are unwarranted, unnecessary, and unwelcomed by our city. These are things of the past, and attempt to maintain the status quo.
With the recent resignation of the current police chief, Little Rock has an opportunity for fresh, new leadership in the LRPD. Against the backdrop of deeply concerning allegations regarding misconduct and long-standing concerns regarding officer morale, and issues like community policing and repeat violent offenders that remain unresolved, the mix of the reality and perception of criminal activity, there are four priorities that I believe we should all look for in the next chief.
We’ll need a clear idea of what they believe real community policing looks like. For me, it looks like a commitment to ongoing de-escalation and implicit bias training, recruiting a diverse force that looks like an increasingly diverse Little Rock, and officers that are specifically trained to liaise with our LGBT community, build inroads with our growing Latino community, and that have the tools to deal with our mentally ill residents with compassion.
In addition to a willingness to cooperate with any independent investigation – whether it be from a task force that I form or from the Department of Justice – and supporting an independent citizen review board, I want to see a demonstrated commitment to recruiting and retaining a diverse and inclusive police force.
Finally, I’ll look for a clear plan of action for how the next chief intends to deal with violent, repeat offenders who commit the vast majority of our violent crime in Little Rock.
Scott proposes to expand the power of the mayor. The office currently has
“Our city manager role should be converted into a chief operating officer that manages the day-to-day administration of the City but that leaves executive, policymaking decisions to the Mayor’s Office. And, we need to replace our at-large directors with “additional ward” directors that individually represent multiple wards – a decision that will give more of a voice to our neighborhoods and give us a Board of Directors that looks more like Little Rock.
The city board now has 10 members, three elected at-large and seven from wards. There are three black members, all ward representatives. If elected, Scott said he would immediately begin planning “the transition from our current form of government to a more modern form of government that creates a more accountable and responsive City Hall.”
In a phone interview, Kurrus said, “I’ve been talking about the powers of a strong mayor for months and been writing about it and posted specific things I’d do on my website. Others have said they couldn’t do these things.”
Kurrus said he’d approached the job first as doing it as the job now exists — “all the things I could do as a CEO and strong mayor.” He added, “If the city wants to change the way we’re organized — you name it, mayor-council straight up — that’s fine with me. If we want to evaluate at-large directors, I’m good with that.” But he said this must be a “community-based decision.”
He said he was happy to see people now talking about an expanded role for the mayor that he believes is already possible without a law change. “If you want a change candidate, I’m it,” he said.
Frank Scott’s latest