HAYWARD FINKS: Assistant chief sues chief. Brian Chilson

Assistant Police Chief Hayward Finks and two police sergeants —  Finks’ brother and a co-worker — have sued Little Rock Police Chief Keith Humphrey for allegedly retaliating against Finks for testifying that an investigation was rushed into Officer Charlie Starks for the fatal shooting of Bradley Blackshire.

Starks killed Blackshire during a traffic stop on suspicion that he was driving a stolen car. His actions were deemed justified by the prosecutor and a string of superior officers backed that finding, but Humphrey fired Starks for jumping in front of the moving vehicle and firing, in violation of policy. His firing was reversed by a circuit court action and he’s back on the force, though protesting his work conditions.

Finks testified at the Civil Service Commission hearing that Humphrey was under pressure from Mayor Frank Scott Jr. to fire Starks, something Humphrey and Scott have denied. Finks testified the internal investigation into Starks was rushed because of that pressure.

Joining Finks in the lawsuit, which you can read here, are his brother, Sgt. Duane Finks, and a co-worker, Sgt. Reginald Parks. Both had been supervisors in the school resources officer program.

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I’ve asked for a comment from Humphrey and also from Mayor Scott and his spokesperson, Stephanie Jackson, who figure in some of the events described.

Finks’ lawyer, Chris Burks, volunteered in an e-mail, that the lawsuit is not about Scott’s actions.

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It is not an attack on Scott in any way. Instead, it is 100% about the actions of the Chief of Police.

 

The lawsuit is not a defense of Officer Starks or about anything other than illegal retaliation.  As you know, I’ve spoken out on the school-to-prison pipeline and by filing no one is condoning any past issues.

The lawsuit says Finks “told nothing but the truth.” It continues:

However, Chief Keith Humphrey was in over his head with mounting debt collection judgments [this is a reference to recent reports of credit card debt collection suits against him in his former home in Oklahoma] against him. He was too eager to please a Mayor who did not actually ask Humphrey to retaliate.

So Chief Humphrey starting his own campaign of retaliation by communicating to human resources about Finks the very next day after Finks’ testimony.

Humphrey then refused an Internal Affairs investigation requested by Finks, transferred Finks’ brother and his co-worker, and regularly yells, slams doors, and rages against those that Humphrey perceives as Humphrey’s enemies.

All of these heated reactions are the exact type of temptations that the logic of the law is intended to cool. Unfortunately, Chief Humphrey has lost sight of what makes our system of law so strong: two wrongs do not make a right.

No amount of retribution against those who told the truth about the investigation will bring back Bradley Blackshire. No action justifies denying due process: everyone is entitled to it.

Indeed, the very faith tradition that Humphrey sometimes professes to his staff, teaches that vengeance is not for the beloved. The very system of laws Humphrey is sworn to uphold, is designed to make us a nation of laws, not of men.

The suit says Finks had discussions with Mayor Scott and a staff member, Stephanie Jackson, about the case and a protest planned over Starks that was arranged by Rizelle Aaron, a former NAACP leader. By Finks’ account, Humphrey said he believed Finks had been lying about the Aaron protest. Finks wanted an internal investigation of the matter, but Humphrey wouldn’t allow it, the suit says.

The suit says Humphrey was angry after the Circuit Court decision and transferred Duane Finks and Reginald Parks to patrol, causing them a loss of income and poorer schedules.

Humphrey reportedly remained angry, reportedly yelling March 26 that people were out to get him. The lawsuit argues that retaliation against Finks and the others runs afoul of laws against retaliating against court witnesses and against whistleblowers. It says it’s also a violation of the Civil Rights Act to harm someone who testifies in support of someone denied civil rights (in this case, Fink’s testimony that Blackshire’s rights were violated, as a pending lawsuit by the family alleges.)

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The lawsuit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

The case was assigned to Judge Tim Fox, who previously overturned Starks’ firing. The chief isn’t likely to be pleased.

UPDATE: City Attorney Tom Carpenter’s update to city board and mayor is a little misleading. The state online court system had this lawsuit yesterday morning. Why he couldn’t find it, only he can say.

The City received notice of litigation to be filed by LRPD Assistant Chief Hayward Finks against LRPD Chief Keith Humphrey. Although we could not verify that the complaint had actually been filed later this afternoon, we now know that it has and is styled Hayward Finks, Duane Finks and Reginald Parks v. Keith Humphrey and City of Little Rock, Arkansas, No. 60CV-200-2718, Pulaski Circuit [6th Division]. The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Timothy Davis Fox. It essentially suggests that it is an employment matter, addresses witness retaliation, violates the Arkansas Whistle-Blower statute, and violates the Arkansas Civil Rights Act. The complaint is quite colorfully worded and was evidently provided to the news media before it was filed or the City was provided notice. Late this afternoon, unable to find evidence the lawsuit had been filed, this office issued the following statement to the news media:

The City of Little Rock has been made aware of a lawsuit against the City and Chief of Police Keith Humphrey. Neither the City nor Chief Humphrey have been served with the suit at this time. As such, the City and Chief Humphrey have no comment on the Complaint.

The City does not intend to begin trying lawsuits in the news media. We have read the complaint, have discussed several defenses to it, and will let it be decided appropriately in court. This matter is very serious and is being treated as such. It is vital that the City not be involved in interviews with the news media, or comments to anyone outside this office, about the litigation..