Black police officers complain about racial Facebook post by police recruit | Arkansas Blog

Friday, November 24, 2017

Black police officers complain about racial Facebook post by police recruit

Posted By on Fri, Nov 24, 2017 at 4:50 PM

The Little Rock Police Department has acknowledged a complaint by the Little Rock Black Police Officers Association about a racially tinged message allegedly found on the Facebook page of a member of the police recruit class as well as an insensitive drawing posted on a window of police offices

The Department says the matter is under investigation. There has not been confirmation that the racially tinged post, which is no longer on Facebook, is that of the named police recruit.

The BPOA said the Facebook post dates to 2013. It notes that a decision to hire a recruit who'd once attended a KKK meeting ended with the prosecution of that recruit, Josh Hastings, in a manslaughter case. That "catastrophically bad choice," said the letter, "dismantled an already fractured relationship between the police and the African American community. We will not sit silently and allow or wait for the city of Little Rock to unfold a welcome mat for this recruit."

The letter, signed by BPOA President Melvin Vester, said the current administration is unwilling to regain trust and build partnerships. It said the City Board has also remained silent regarding matters in the African American community. It said the Board had not held Chief Kenton Buckner or City Manager Bruce Moore (both black men) accountable. Buckner has met with the community, but the sessions have been contentious.

The letter said the police seemed to be selective in monitoring social media. It's not clear, but this could be a reference to the careful attention the police "intelligence division" seems to be paying to coming rap shows in Little Rock, if not the Facebook posts of police recruits.

The letter asks that the recruit be shown the "exit door" and that an investigation be undertaken of the image posted on the window of the downtown detective division.

Here's the full letter from the BPOA.

The formal response from a police spokesman:

click to enlarge screen_shot_2017-11-24_at_4.13.35_pm.png

There's a back story on how this complaint became public. It followed a series of FOI requests from blogger Russ Racop, a critic of Chief Buckner and an announced candidate for City Board.  He's been trying for days to get the BPOA letter and was initially rebuffed, without legal justification, by Buckner. You can read his account here. It includes the Facebook post that drew criticism — a sleeping black man with the message, "Go night, night nigga. Go night night." The Facebook page is that of an Army veteran who attended Cabot High School. The photo to which objections were raised appears to me to be a picture of a sleeping soldier.

The BPOA letter also criticized this notice reportedly posted at a police office:

screen_shot_2017-11-24_at_4.11.43_pm.png

If the complaint about the recruit holds true it will fall, coincidentally, into a pattern that is a source of departmental tension. Only about 20 percent of the white Little Rock police officers live in the city of Little Rock, while 62 percent of black officers live in the city. White police officers have said crime and poor schools are among the reasons they don't live here. The city provides free auto transportation to 160 police officers, most of them white, to commute to homes in suburban cities, including Cabot, that have long benefitted from population and school enrollment growth of people leaving Little Rock for the same reasons. A major reason for chamber of commerce support of a $600 million-plus freeway widening project in downtown Little Rock is to shave a few minutes off commuting time to places like Cabot.

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