The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Kat Stromquist reported fully this morning on an event I mentioned yesterday — the appearance of Little Rock Police Chief Keith Humphrey and Capitol Police Chief Darren Hedden before a legislative committee reviewing recent Capitol protests.
A key objective seemed to be for legislators to fault Humphrey for his agency’s response to demonstrations beginning May 30 that included acts of vandalism the first few nights, among them painted graffiti on the Capitol. Humphrey stood his ground ably. He said he wasn’t prepared to unleash deadly force over property damage because it would have touched off worse. His first aim was the protection of officers and demonstrators, he said.
This is not a wholly popular idea, as sensible as it sounds. Questioning from senators indicated they though deadly force should have been employed. (CLARIFICATION: I quoted a tweet earlier that seem to express this view; it was intended to express what the reader understood to be the view of senators.)
Hedden, whose previous brushes with fame include ousting Little Rock School District parents from a state Board of Education meeting for exercising their 1st Amendment rights, was critical at the legislative committee meeting of Humphrey’s work during the protests, particularly a lack of communication. Humphrey was offended by Hedden’s reference to him as “that man.” Hedden is white; Humphrey is black. “That man” sounds like a racial dog whistle to me.
In any case, this sentence in Stromquist’s article indirectly quoting Hedden caught my attention.
He expressed concern Humphrey might have passed on intelligence to demonstrators. Hedden said he saw the chief and Little Rock mayor Frank Scott Jr. briefly join a protest group one evening.
Again with the “police intelligence,” which I’ve been skeptical about from the start. As it happens, I got another limited release of information from the State Police yesterday in response to my FOI request seeking evidence of the various references of “Antifa” designs on provoking violence in Little Rock. As yet, nothing credible has surfaced. My latest release, it so happens, has several photos of armed, white protesters wearing garb, such as a Hawaiian shirt, believed to be indicative of right-wing, not left-wing, groups. Hedden also provided photos of armed black males in the protest group. They have been a regular presence as security for the group and have been accused of no improper action.
Yesterday’s material comprised several photos and text messages received from Hedden and others. “Intelligence?” You decide. But note that Hedden is quoted as having received information from LRPD, an agency he was reluctant to share with.
Here’s a text from Hedden sharing a photo of an armed man accompanying a message that a group called the Hiwaymen would be heading to Little Rock to respond to reports of planned looting.
Some more Hedden intelligence.
The demonstrations are about racial equity. Some black legislators — Sen. Joyce Elliott and Rep. Vivian Flowers — tried to introduce that element into the committee conversation yesterday but were gaveled out of order by Republican Sen. Gary Stubblefield.
The committee meeting led to a comment from former Rep. Charles Blake of Little Rock, now a top aide to Mayor Frank Scott Jr. and a defender of the mayor’s police chief. His comments are salient. Follow the entire thread.
Today my former colleagues at the State Capitol, held a meeting to discuss the damage to the Capitol during the protest.
Let me be clear, if you are more concerned with the damage caused by the protest than the systematic damage that caused the protest, you are the problem.
— Charles Blake (@charlesjblake) June 15, 2020
Blake was unhappy, too, that Chris Burks, a lawyer in several lawsuits filed against Humphrey over his management, testified before the committee. That WAS a head-scratcher.
UPDATE: Burks responded:
Thanks and I was at the hearing yesterday because Humphrey wouldn’t let my clients who are over intelligence and operations come. Chief Finks is over intelligence, and Chief Fulk operations. They have relevant information to share but aren’t allowed to.
Humphrey at first wouldn’t cooperate at all so I was going to appear and ask that he and my clients be subpoenaed, but then when he did he cooperate he refused to involve my clients and disparaged them in the hearing. For example, Humphrey blamed Finks for an evacuation of 12th Street Station in his testimony.
Charles Blake knew all of this and that I would be there because I informed the City’s lawyers. Of course Charles’ tweets critical of the hearing started before there even was testimony to be critical of.
I thought most of the questions of Humphrey were misguided, but I disagree with your analysis that he handled them ably. He yelled at them and did not deescalate.
Humphrey, Mayor Scott and Charles Blake still refuse to meet on any of my concerns with Humphrey. That they can’t separate his actions from their broader goals is a mistake on my view. They can still accomplish reform with a Chief who does not act illegally like Humphrey.