Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox held the city of Little Rock in contempt of court today and ordered that reinstated LRPD officer Charles Starks be reissued his gun and badge, the D-G reports.
Fox found that the city had violated his order to reinstate Starks by placing him on a “relieved of duty” status and denying him his gun, badge, and identification. If the city now fails to comply, it will face a $10,000 per day fine and Police Chief Keith Humphrey will be forced to surrender his own gun and badge, Fox ordered.
City attorneys told Fox that Starks will get his gun back once he passes his regular qualification test, the D-G reports.
Humphrey fired Starks last May for violating police procedure by stepping in front of a moving car in the course of a traffic stop of Bradley Blackshire in February. Blackshire was driving a stolen car and bumped Starks as he was driving slowly away despite Starks’ order to stop. Starks fired through the windshield, killing Blackshire. Fox reinstated Starks in a ruling this month; the city is appealing to the Court of Appeals.
Fox’s ruling today comes in response to a motion for contempt filed last week by Starks’ attorneys. They argued that in defiance of Fox’s order, Mayor Frank Scott and Humphrey “refused to restore [Starks] to the position of a normal Little Rock Police Officer.” The motion stated that Starks has been told he has been placed on “relieved of duty status” and the city will not reissue his gun, badge and identification. That designation is for officers under pending disciplinary investigation, whereas the investigation for Starks has been completed, the motion stated.
This status “stigmatizes” Starks, the motion argued, and leaves him “unable to protect the citizens of Arkansas, his family, or himself in the event of an emergency, and cannot make an arrest.” The motion also argued that Starks was losing around $20,000 per year in supplemental income by being precluded from doing off-duty law enforcement work.
In its response to the motion for contempt, the city argued that Starks was wrong to complain that he had not been properly reinstated. City attorneys argued that the “relieved of duty” status was an appropriate administrative option while the appeal of the matter is pending. They stated that while the Court mandated reinstatement, it “did not in any way limit, mandate or restrict the duties to which [the city] may assign or not assign to [Starks], pending the appeal in this matter.”
While Fox found that Starks should be reinstated, city attorneys pointed to Fox’s findings of fact regarding Starks’ actions. Starks “made a number of illogical decisions which culminated in his violation” of department rules, the response states, “a violation that the Court found resulted in ‘serious and substantial consequences’.” They argued that the court’s order “clearly stated that Appellees were free to assign Appellant any and all duties or no duties at all while the Arkansas appellate courts finally conclude the appeal.”
From the city’s response:
Appellees have reinstated salary and benefits to Appellant. Appellees have also exercised its option of placing Appellant on ‘Relieved of Duty” status which discharges of him of the obligation to respond to emergency situations and make arrests. Appellees’ actions comply with the Court’s Orders of January 2 and 10, 2020 and relieve both Appellant and Appellees from unnecessary risk during the pendency of the appeal in this namely, the death matter.
Fox ruled that the city must return Starks to his previous status, including the return of his gun and badge, and must continue to pay him — but it is not required to put him back to work.