The suburban Little Rock police force. Most take-home cars head out of town, driven by white officers | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The suburban Little Rock police force. Most take-home cars head out of town, driven by white officers

Posted By on Wed, Jan 31, 2018 at 7:34 AM

MOTOR POOL DEMOGRAPHICS: Who drives free city cars home and where they go.
  • MOTOR POOL DEMOGRAPHICS: Who drives free city cars home and where they go.

Blogger Russ Racop, a candidate for Little Rock City Board, devoted one of his many Freedom of Information requests of Little Rock police to the generous allotment of city cars for police officer commuting.

He sent around the Police Department's response to reporters. I was happy to see it, having made similar requests in the past. I have also frequently expressed my concern that Little Rock taxpayers provide hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of additional subsidy in a free commuter vehicle to make it cheaper for cops to live in another city. The excuse of the benefit is that the cars provide a rapid response from officers. That response would be even more rapid by those persuaded to live in the city of Little Rock with even more incentives (there are some modest ones in the area of housing assistance bonuses).

The makeup of our police force in a majority-minority city is a problem. In a city approaching majority black, the police force is 70 percent white. In one recent count only 177 of 524 officers lived in the city of Little Rock. Only 75 of 354 white officers lived in the city.

Given those percentages, it's no surprise the free take-home cars are mostly driven by white officers.

According to the tally Racop received 224 cars are assigned to police officers for take-home use. 36 of those apparently go to undercover officers, because their names and hometowns were redacted from the list supplied Racop.

But the rest is telling: of 188 take-home cars, only 67 go to Little Rock officers. Thus the city is paying a subsidy to at least 121 officers to live elsewhere. The Fraternal Order of Police likes to cite crime and the schools (majority black) as reasons officers choose to live in Bryant, Alexander, Conway, Cabot, Maumelle and other points.

I note that only two of 11 officers on the roving violent crime team live in Little Rock. Only 8 of 27 SWAT officers, whose rapid response is truly vital. One of four in public affairs is a Little Rock resident. As I've written before, I think it's unsurprising that an inner city resident subjected to heightened traffic stops  in the name of "community policing" might have cause to wonder if attitudes of officers who don't live in the city influence their policing and how they view people of different races and economic strata.  I don't conclude there's bias. But I do conclude the makeup of the force, its preference for out-of-city residency and the city's continued insistence on making it economically more attractive to live elsewhere is a problem.

Here's the vehicle list Racop obtained. It names most officers who have take-home cars and their city of residence.

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