Little Rock Police Officer Charles Starks, reinstated by a court after Police Chief Keith Humphrey fired him for violating policy in a traffic stop that ended with the fatal shooting of Bradley Blackshire, is now suing Humphrey and Mayor Frank Scott Jr.
Starks, who sued to win reinstatement after the Civil Service Commission upheld his firing, named the mayor and chief individually and in official capacities. He’s been in court since his reinstatement over his work assignment and other issues.
The new lawsuit, filed by Robert Newcomb, who represented Starks in the appeal of his firing, repeats information discovered about Blackshire after his killing, including a past criminal record and a drug in his system.
It alleges that Mayor Scott asked Assistant Chief Alice Fulk, now suing the mayor, the day of Blackshire’s killing if Starks could be fired that day though it’s customary for an investigation to be conducted of police use of deadly force. The suit says the investigation was short-circuited due to pressure from Scott. Humphrey has denied this, though other officers suing Humphrey have said the same.
The suit says that Prosecutor Larry Jegley, who found Starks was justified in shooting Blackshire, had said Scott wanted Starks fired without due process and that he’d never seen a police investigation conducted so quickly (13 days).
The suit accuses Humphrey of falsely telling the state commission that certifies police officers that Starks had exhausted the appeals of his firing when he had not.
The suit calls out the mayor for making a condolence call on the family of Blackshire “in a complete break of tradition.”
It recounts Starks’ complaints about his assignment and complains the city had violated the Freedom of Information Act with the release of information about Starks’ disciplinary record, including unfounded complaints. At the same time, the suit notes, the chief is being sued by police employees unable to see their own personnel files. It complains, too, about people who’ve been positions of supervision over Starks who have reasons to be adverse to him.
The suit also runs through allegations in three other lawsuits about Humphrey’s alleged retaliation against officers for opinions contrary to his. And it complains that the city is not defending Starks in a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by the family of Blackshire, contrary to normal policy. It also says he was moved to a job where he no longer can get a free car to use to drive home to Cabot.
All of this, Newcomb argues, amounts to retaliation against Starks and a hostile work environment. It also amounts to punishment for exercising his right to seek redress of grievances, a violation of the Arkansas Civil Rights Act. He said the city also had violated the FOI.
The suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages. It also asks for the training of employees in the Freedom of Information Act. It argues that Scott and Humphrey, not the city, should pay for their legal defense.
I’ve sent messages to the chief and mayor seeking comment, but they’ve generally declined comment in previous lawsuits.
Perhaps I should mention that Newcomb does frequent work for members of the Fraternal Order of Police, currently conducting a “no-confidence” vote on the chief. They’ve also been critical of the mayor and the divide has increasingly taken on a racial dimension — black chief, black mayor, majority white FOP, defense of chief by Black Police Officers Association.
Scott is being ever more tested on his campaign promise to be a uniter.
Stephanie Jackson, part of the added PR apparatus of the Scott administration, sent the expected response:
Good afternoon, Max. As is standard procedure, Mayor Scott does not comment on pending litigation. If something changes, I’ll let you know.