Little Rock Police Chief Keith Humphrey confirms that the agency is not moving ahead for the time being with a plan to have the State Police investigate the use of deadly force by Little Rock police officers.
That plan was announced June 9 by Humphrey and Mayor Frank Scott Jr. along with some other Little Rock police policy changes. At the time, Humphrey said efforts to increase transparency and accountability had included discussions with State Police to review all Little Rock officer-involved shootings and in-custody deaths. He was quoted as saying:
“It doesn’t mean that we don’t have confidence, or I as the chief don’t have confidence, in our department to investigate. But in these times, part of 21st-century policing is being transparent, and how much more transparent can you be when you have a third party investigating incidents?”
Humphrey notified his top staff members last week that LRPD would continue to investigate officer shootings but that could change in the future.
When I asked him about this today in an e-mail, he responded:
It has been placed on hold at this time due to COVID. Nothing has been taken completely off the table.
I asked what COVID-19 had to do with the decision. His response:
Meetings having to be rescheduled and other activities happening with both depts. just on hold at this time.
I asked him whether there’d been any disagreements on the handling of investigative material if State Police took over, specifically whether LRPD wanted to retain access to video and other material while the state agency had responsibility for the investigation. He said:
No disagreements at all. There was only one formal meeting before we decided to put on hold.
A lingering source of tension in Little Rock’s use of force arose from the intervention of Mayor Scott in the fatal shooting of Bradley Blackshire by Officer Charles Starks. An edited video of the traffic stop and shooting was released shortly after the shooting and before the internal investigation had been completed. Subordinates to Chief Humphrey have alleged that he rushed that investigation, a claim at the root of pending lawsuits.
State Police spokesman Bill Sadler said:
The 85 year old law that created the Arkansas State Police underscores one of the duties of the department is to upon request, assist local law enforcement agencies with their investigations or other law enforcement duties. At this juncture the ball is in LRPD’s court and our door is open whenever Chief Humphrey wants the discussions to resume.