Kurrus says he'd take control of police chief selection process | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Kurrus says he'd take control of police chief selection process

Posted By on Thu, Nov 15, 2018 at 4:12 PM

click to enlarge BAKER KURRUS: Would take charge of chief selection - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson
  • BAKER KURRUS: Would take charge of chief selection
Baker Kurrus, in the runoff with Frank Scott Jr. for Little Rock mayor, is trying to establish himself as an agent of change and he illustrated one obvious point today: When it comes to choosing a new police chief, he sees the mayor, not the city manager, as the leader of that process.

In recent years, City Manager Bruce Moore has taken the lead in evaluating, influencing and announcing picks for chief of police and the fire department. Kurrus, a lawyer, has read the city code book. He sees no justification for that approach. (This week Moore set out the process for filling the job vacated by Kenton Buckner in the next few months.)

When it adopted a new government form with more mayoral powers, Kurrus said, it made no mention of giving departmental leadership choices to the city manager. The law says all powers given to the city manager are "at the direction of the mayor," Kurrus said. He would govern that way.

He said he'd move as mayor to replace the police chief by seeking guidance from the City Board on what it wanted in a new chief and solicit public comment on what the public wanted, then "set out a process to meet criteria articulated by people and board."

Kurrus anticipates being in charge. That would be a change. Said Kurrus: "You can't have accountability if the mayor doesn't have responsibility."

I was talking with Kurrus about police issues because of the developing issue over police practices outlined in investigative reporting on abusive drug searches by the LRPD.  The Little Rock Fraternal Order of Police, a politically conservative group controlled by the predominantly white, suburban-living sector of the police force, has taken offense at the reporting. Today, it has tried to make a political issue of the arrest in Cross County of Roderick Talley, one of those accusing the police of misconduct in drug raids.  The FOP has endorsed Kurrus and it posted a photograph of Frank Scott Jr., the ticket-leading opponent of Kurrus in the runoff, with Talley. It's guilt by association and a reflection of FOP unhappiness with Scott for suggesting a Justice Department investigation of the LRPD was in order. (Scott is right, but overlooks the fact that the Trump Justice Department has no interest in investigating abusive police forces prone to single out black people.)

Kurrus has made clear he's disturbed by the reporting by the Post's Radley Balko. But he's also is a lawyer who believes in process — investigating and fact-finding before shooting off his mouth (as the FOP has done in this case). When I asked him about the FOP's latest, he paused and said he still thought the best course was to refer to what he said when the first reporting about LRPD emerged. There's been a serious allegation of abuse of process and it should be investigated with care, he said.

“I will not countenance, ignore or tolerate racism, violations of civil rights, or violations of due process. Little Rock must follow its own policies, applicable law and the Constitution with respect to citizens’ rights, law enforcement and full accountability if misconduct is alleged. I will never prejudge or politicize any such matter. These issues are fundamental to our liberty, our freedom and our future. I look forward to a thorough review of the situation now, and in the future.”
The FOP, long a force for ill in the city, would do well to follow the counsel of the candidate it has endorsed before prejudging or politicizing Roderick Talley.

I'll update with comments from Frank Scott if I can get them.

UPDATE: Scott's comments:

click to enlarge fop_response.jpg

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