Little Rock Police Chief Keith Sought Files On Staffers’ Meetings

Little Rock Police Chief Keith Humphrey last month personally sought recordings, written notes and transcripts of weekly meetings attended by his colleagues, amid a legal clash with several top officials in the Police Department.

Humphrey submitted an open records request Sept. 15 to obtain these files, email records show. The request was submitted just after 6 p.m. on the day that senior police officials sent a letter to Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. and members of the city Board of Directors asking for immediate action regarding Humphrey.

In their letter, members of the command staff said Humphrey was responsible for “a very toxic, hostile, and explosive work environment,” resulting in a “very dysfunctional” Police Department.

All three of the department’s assistant chiefs and seven of 10 police captains signed the letter.

Several police officials have sued Humphrey, alleging retaliation, and the police chief recently filed a countersuit.

In his open records request, Humphrey asked for “copies [of] all of the audio tapes, written notes, recording[s] or transcripts of all weekly command staff meetings,” including those held via conference call.

“This includes any impromptu staff meetings that may have been recorded,” Humphrey added in the request.

Additionally, Humphrey asked for all Webex or Zoom meetings that were recorded during the covid-19 pandemic, plus records from biweekly meetings with captains and civilians.

He emailed the request to Lt. Michael Ford, a Little Rock police spokesman, and two other Police Department officials, Domikia Davis and Le’Quanna Brown.

Later that evening, records show Humphrey emailed members of the Police Department’s command staff to inform them that at the end of September the format of weekly command staff meetings would change. Division commanders would be required to discuss what they are doing to improve and how their work relates to 21st century policing, he wrote.

Additionally, at the meetings, each assistant chief would have to present a topic related to national or international law enforcement or current events, he said.

“I am looking forward to interesting and open dialogue,” Humphrey wrote.

The next day, Humphrey submitted an addition to his records request. He asked for similar materials from impromptu meetings that included captains, assistant chiefs and himself during the months of July, August and September.

“This was to discuss trust and transparency,” Humphrey wrote.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette obtained the emails sent by Humphrey after submitting a records request for his correspondence.

When asked about his records request and whether it was related to his dispute with members of the command staff, Humphrey said it was not. In a follow-up response, Humphrey said he ultimately canceled the records request.

“I never received the information that I requested,” Humphrey wrote in an email Tuesday. “That is because I canceled the request. Due to the fact that I found the information that I was looking for.”

He did not describe the information he sought with the request for meeting records.

Tension between the police chief and his command staff appears to have broken into the open after the investigation of the February 2019 police shooting of Bradley Blackshire, a Black driver who was shot and killed by former officer Charles Starks, who is white.

Starks was fired, only to be reinstated because of a judge’s order. Police officials later testified to a city commission that the investigation into the shooting was rushed. In their lawsuits, two assistant chiefs say Humphrey retaliated against them and their allies in the Police Department because of their testimony. Starks resigned from the Police Department in late September.

So far, the response in Pulaski County Circuit Court to the allegations from lower-ranking police officials has been mixed.

Claims from former Assistant Chief Alice Fulk, who recently left the Police Department to become the chief of the Arkansas State Capitol Police, and one of her colleagues, Lt. Christina Plummer, were dismissed by a judge Oct. 1 for lack of evidence.

However, attorneys for Fulk filed an amended complaint. In it, Fulk says she was forced to resign from the Police Department because of Humphrey’s alleged retaliatory treatment.

In a response this week, attorneys for the city of Little Rock denied Fulk’s allegations about her resignation.

Another lawsuit filed by Assistant Chief Hayward Finks and two other police officials, including his brother, was allowed to move ahead, per the decision of another circuit court judge, despite an effort by attorneys for Humphrey and the city to have the suit dismissed.

Approximately two weeks after he filed the request for meeting recordings and other materials, Humphrey and his attorney, Michael Laux, filed a countersuit against officials in the Police Department.

The complaint was filed in federal court Sept. 30 and names 21 individuals — including Finks, Fulk, Starks and executive board members of the Little Rock Fraternal Order of Police — and alleges they conspired against Humphrey to force him out of the chief’s job in violation of his rights.

Chris Burks, an attorney representing several police officials who have sued Humphrey, declined to provide an on-the-record comment when asked about Humphrey’s request for meeting recordings and notes.

Burks represents Fulk and Finks, among others, in their lawsuits involving the police chief.

In June, more than 83% of members of the Fraternal Order of Police voted to approve a no-confidence resolution on Humphrey, according to the police union.

In a letter to the mayor and the city board on Sept. 16, the Little Rock Black Police Officers Association said 89% of its members voted that they were confident in Humphrey’s leadership.

From www.arkansasonline.com

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