Assistant Little Rock Police Chief Hayward Finks, the second of four finalists and the first internal candidate for the job of chief of police, went before members of the public at Little Rock's Philander Smith College Thursday.
Finks, a 33 year veteran of the department, emphasized his roots in Little Rock, getting emotional while telling an anecdote about growing up in the city.
"I will tell you, never in my wildest dreams would I have ever thought that I would be standing before you as a candidate to be the Chief of Police for the City of Little Rock," Finks said.
In Finks' half-hour presentation, he outlined his goals of increased community policing, implementing community advisory boards and boosting hiring to get to a total of 700 officers. While those weren't his only goals for the department, those three were specifically outlined by Mayor Frank Scott Jr. in his campaign.
Finks has a long history with the LRPD, beginning in 1988 and working with special investigations, downtown patrol and street narcotics units among others. And while some had questioned previous candidate Todd Chamberlain's experience in a managerial role, Finks' 24 years with the department as a supervisor left some with concerns over his ability to affect change.
Finks reassured the public he could.
"As the captain over our Special Investigation Division, I was responsible for the investigation of our officers, officers in other departments across the state, as far as activity that should not be going on," Finks said. "Which shows that our department is capable of policing ourselves."
Finks said he didn’t remember the exact circumstances when asked why he chose not to terminate LRPD Officer Charles Starks after receiving a recommendation to do so. Starks was recently relieved of duty after fatally shooting 30-year-old Bradley Blackshire at a traffic stop last Friday.
When asked about the department's policy of using "no-knock" raids to execute search warrants for narcotics, Finks didn't endorse or condemn the practice. Instead, Finks showed skepticism of media portrayals of the department's policies.
"Have we done things that we need to do differently and take advantage of that? Are there best practices or different ways of doing things that we have not considered? I think that's what progressive police departments do, and we do that continually because best practices change," Finks said. "But everything we read in the paper and on social media [are] not necessarily facts either."
Finks also said he'd "tend to agree" that officers should live within Little Rock city limits, but said imposing a residency requirement could be an obstacle in his plan to hire an additional 106 officers. Finks also showed support for use of body-worn cameras on officers and for greater involvement of social workers with the police department.
When asked by Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, about police accountability, Finks emphasized the need to bridge the gap between the majority White Fraternal Order of Police and the Little Rock Black Police Officer’s Association, from which Finks resigned in August of 2017.
"Treating everybody with dignity and respect, that starts at the top. The chief has to hold himself accountable and then hold… the commanders accountable, and then hold the commanders accountable for holding the officers accountable. Accountability goes a long way."
Norman, Oklahoma police Chief Keith Humphrey will take public questions next Monday, with LRPD Assistant Chief Alice Fulk rounding out the series of forums next Wednesday.