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Little Rock mayor announces no disciplinary action will be taken against police chief

Little Rock Police Chief Keith Humphrey
Michael Hibblen
Little Rock Police Chief Keith Humphrey, seen here on Dec. 4, 2019, will not face disciplinary action despite a probe suggesting he has instilled racial discrimination and hostile working conditions at the department.

Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. says no disciplinary action will be taken against Police Chief Keith Humphrey after an outside investigation. The probe was conducted by Arkansas Tech University professor Dr. Loretta Cochran who was hired by the city’s Human Resources Department.

A statement from the mayor on Monday evening said he received a summary report from the investigation on Sept. 24 from City Manager Bruce Moore, who reviewed the 27-page report and supporting documentation..

“While it is neither customary nor advised to comment on an employee’s personnel record, we will make an exception to conclude this investigation and move forward with the necessary steps to ultimately improve public safety for Little Rock residents,” Scott said.

The report has not been made public, but in an August email, obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, Cochran told the human resources director about major problems from Humphrey.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports the email said the firing of one officer was “a clear indication of racial discrimination, hostile working conditions and retaliation” by Humphrey and two other high-ranking officials.

Mayor Scott suggested there were questions about the impartiality of the outside investigator.

“It is imperative that we avoid any appearance of impropriety or bias in employee investigations, and the investigator’s affiliations and donation to a complainant’s GoFundMe raised serious concerns about the legitimacy of her investigation,” Scott said in his statement.

Because Scotts is opting not to take disciplinary action, Cochran’s report won’t be subject to release under the Freedom of Information Act.

Meanwhile, the Little Rock Police Department has been given suggestions for improving its operations based on the recommendations made by an independent audit firm. Members of the Little Rock Board of Directors met on Tuesday and presented highlights of the audit.

Thomas Christoff, a researcher and criminologist with CNA said improving the data collected by the department could help identify patterns of potential bias.

“We recommended that LRPD capture data on both race and ethnicity, so that there is an ability to evaluate complete trends by hispanic community members,” Christoff said.

The audit discussed Tuesday included a review of five years of data and interviews with officers, focused on 15 areas, including performance evaluations and the
promotion process.

Christoff said one recommendation in the 104-page report was that officers should not review body-worn camera footage prior to making their initial reports after using force during an arrest.

“Use of force is supposed to be objectively reasonable from the perception of the officer at the time of force by allowing officers to review the body worn camera footage or introduce the potential for something they didn’t recognize at the time of force, to now be included in their justification of force,” Christoff said.

The mayor still stands by his decision to not take disciplinary action and has asked Humphrey to appoint a task force of members of the Fraternal Order of Police and the Black Police Officers Association to review the audit's findings and work toward an implementation plan.

Reporting by KUAR's David Monteith and Michael Hibblen contributed to this story.

Maddie Becker serves as an intern at KUAR News as part of the George C. Douthit Endowed Scholarship program for the Fall 2021 semester.