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Finalist For LRPD Chief Puts Emphasis On Communication, Officer Wellness

Daniel Breen

The third of four finalists for Little Rock Police Chief spoke with members of the public Monday at Little Rock's Philander Smith College. 

A thinner crowd greeted Norman, Okla. Police Chief Keith Humphrey than what retired Los Angeles Police Commander Todd Chamberlain and Little Rock Assistant Police Chief Hayward Finks had to contend with. And though Humphrey comes from outside of the department, he tailored his presentation to the city whose police force he hopes to lead. 

"We don't have a vision here at the Little Rock Police Department. We have a mission and we have a value statement, but I think we need a vision. People need to know where we're going and how we're going to get there," Humphrey said. 

Like the other candidates, Humphrey has been in law enforcement for roughly 30 years. Since 2011, he's led the force in Norman; an Oklahoma City suburb with a smaller population than Little Rock. Humphrey's policy-heavy presentation emphasized the need for a tonal shift in policing, stressing the importance of communication with the public and within the department.

Humphrey cited his experience in Norman boosting that city's community policing tactics following the implementation of a public safety sales tax. 

"We made the department a lot more community friendly. We put every employee through a community-oriented policing class so they understood what our expectations were," Humphrey said.  

Humphrey's first priority as Little Rock Police Chief, he said, would be to review all of the department's policies, and mandate a review of every complaint the department receives. On the question of police misconduct, Humphrey showed support for body-worn cameras and requiring a "threat matrix" assessment before issuing no-knock warrants.

Humphrey also focused on public outreach; proposing a new community service division, having a "friendlier" online presence, and a potential service where police cadets follow up on interactions with the public.

On internal matters, Humphrey stressed the need for officer wellness. He spoke against the practice of 12-hour shifts and favored the rotation of officer assignments and limiting off-duty security work. When asked about staffing, Humphrey emphasized quality over quantity, even putting a figure on the number of Little Rock Police officers who he said would likely be resistant to change. 

"What I've seen today, in talking to Little Rock officers and doing research... there's probably about five percent that fall into that category of laggards," Humphrey said. 

Although Humphrey did not explicitly mention tensions between the Little Rock Black Police Officers Association and the majority-white Fraternal Order of Police, he said he would seek to heal division within the department. 

"Members of police departments cannot effectively contribute to the fight against crime if interdepartmental conflict exists among those entrusted in protecting and serving. Remember, law enforcement is a profession. It's not a job, it's a profession," Humphrey said. 

The final forum, with LRPD Assistant Chief Alice Fulk, is set for Wednesday.

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