Blogger Russ Racop is something of a high-tech Say McIntosh, the irrepressible pamphleteer of yore.
He can be intemperate — cursing the mayor in an open City Board meeting is but one example. His zeal for Freedom of Information Act requests, legal though they are, sometimes border on the obsessive and can engender — certainly among burdened public officials — ill feelings about the state’s sunshine law.
But, between his compulsions, his knowledge of FOI and his tech skills, he digs up some acorns.
Example today: He’s obtained a report from the UA Little Rock School of Criminal Justice and Criminology. It was commissioned by the city to review the police crime guns intelligence unit created in 2017 and the Shot Spotter system, which pinpoints gunfire. The City Board last month renewed the Shot Spotter contract at a cost of almost $300,000.
I’m going to oversimply and say that findings include a rise in crime in virtually every gun category in 2020, including in the zones where the Shot Spotter was deployed. From the conclusion:
The evaluation revealed that there were desired reductions in crime in 2018 and early
2019, yet certain violent gun crimes were on the rise in 2020. Further, while investigative leads increased considerably and clearance rates of homicides more than doubled in late 2018 and remained high, these findings indicated that LRPD may need to think creatively to better understand what factors might be tied to the recent increases in crime.
• Recent increases in non-fatal shootings and terroristic acts across the city as
well as increases in terroristic acts and robberies in the ShotSpotter Zone are
areas to explore further. More focused crime prevention tactics may be needed.
The report recommends the continuation of the program. But it commented:
Given recent concerns about the cost of ShotSpotter among city board members and
Little Rock citizens, it may be useful to conduct a cost-benefit analysis to determine the value of the technology being used.
The subject is timely, given how little discussion there’s been about crime and police in the mayor’s recent discussion of a $54 million sales tax increase for city government.
Racop also sometimes illustrates the Little Rock administration’s less-than-fastidious adherence to the Freedom of Information Act.
Example: He sought records related to City Director Doris Wright’s rule of the West Central Community Center. He says the response was “scant.” Moreover, he said it didn’t include a letter to the mayor from someone who’d lost a job at the center. It so happened he had a copy of that letter already. He’s reprinted it.
There’s more at his Bad Little Rock website. Examples: Racially disparate personnel actions on the police force; a questionable campaign contribution to a city director; payroll protection loans given to six Little Rock police officers (who live outside the city) apparently for interruptions in their side income providing private security.
The mention of Racop’s name produces a sour look on the faces of most city officials. Police Chief Keith Humphrey has sued him and tried to get him charged with harassment. I’ve disclosed before that the public officials who’ve been a focus of his unhappiness include my wife, who handled a domestic case involving him when she was a judge.
I’m reminded of Say McIntosh, who once slugged a political candidate on a Sunday TV show. There was no defending that (even though he punched a particularly loathsome candidate). But the Black Santa had redeeming characteristics, including not only his mastery of lemonade and sweet potato pie but also some righteous civic activism, with defamatory pamphlets thrown in the mix.
Harry Truman’s quote is apt for at least some of Racop’s body of work:
“I don’t give them Hell. I just tell the truth about them, and they think it’s Hell.”