The Fraternal Order of Police assault on Little Rock Police Chief Keith Humphrey continues.
Today comes lawsuit No. 5 against the embattled chief, accused again by retaliating against an officer who took exception to his hurried investigation and firing of Officer Charles Starks for the killing last year of Bradley Blackshire.
Starks, who had a less than perfect record, violated policy in handling the traffic stop, but the prosecutor said he was justified in the shooting.
The latest lawsuit, by Capt. Marcus Paxton, is directly related to the Starks case.
It says Humphrey retaliated against him for testimony by officers in his command by transferring him, thus denying him pay and training he otherwise would have accumulated.
The suit says the retaliation began Sept. 4 when officers in his division started testifying about the circumstances of Blackshire’s death.
On September 9, 2019, Humphrey emailed Paxton to criticize him and his Training Division officers who had told the truth in the Starks case testimony. He also threatened personnel changes.
Chief Humphrey then decided to remove Paxton from the training division and place him over civilians, but Paxton wasn’t told of this decision until October 1, 2019.
According to Paxton, Sgt. Tory Trammel had said Starks had not violated policies and testified about training that applied to his conduct.
Five lawsuits have accused Humphrey of retaliating against officers or violating the Freedom of Information Act. One lawsuit names both Humphrey and Mayor Frank Scott Jr. for allegedly pressing for the firing of Starks from the day of the shooting.
Chris Burks and Degan Clow have filed four of the lawsuits. Robert Newcomb, often a lawyer for FOP members, sued for Starks.
Additionally today, Burks provided a copy of an email from the city human relations department that it did not intend to interview all the potential witnesses provided by FOP to talk about alleged sexual harassment by Humphrey. He wrote: “This raises the question of how does the City know what the women will say about the Chief if they do not ask them?”
Humphrey and Scott have repeatedly refused to discuss the case, though they got something of a defense in a memo written to the mayor and city board by City Attorney Tom Carpenter.
Other defenders have questioned a racial motivation by white officers resentful of a black chief or sour grapes by two assistant chiefs (one black) passed over when Scott picked Humphrey.
City Attorney Carpenter is not defending the lawsuits because of a conflict in his role as city attorney, but he raises questions about the lawsuits and also the release of police video that put Humphrey in the neighborhood of a female friend early one morning. Carpenter details the handling of that video and suggests impropriety in its use. Starks has claimed the FOI law was broken in the release of his personnel records to critics.
Hard to say where this is all heading. Mayor Scott has bowed up in support of Humphrey. He plans to appoint a group — as yet unnamed — to investigate the entire department, suggesting there’s problems in the rank and file. At least half of the city board has been critical of Humphrey, but the mayor has control of the chief’s hiring and firing. The Black Police Officers Association has lined up behind the chief and mayor. The predominantly white
FOP is holding a no-confidence vote on the chief and has been critical of the mayor.
#UniteLR is not merely a hashtag — it is and will always be my internal “why” for moving our city forward, and making Little Rock the best city it can be. The #ScottScript is our Unity playbook, with each recommendation moving us closer to being united. ✅ https://t.co/9qExd9ihEf pic.twitter.com/gh6qxkcS9O
— Frank Scott, Jr. (@FrankScottJr) April 23, 2019