LR Police Chief responds to criticism at race-relation forum

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- The chief of the Little Rock police department is defending the officer who shot and killed a man early Tuesday morning.

Little Rock Police Chief Kenton Buckner spent much of his day talking about the shooting, and explaining what the department is doing to improve relations with the city.

Buckner went to the scene not long after deadly shooting of 46-year-old Roy Richards, and he met with the city’s Racial and Cultural Diversity Commission this afternoon.

“In a deadly force encounter,” Buckner said, “the officer’s goal is to stop the threat.”

The meeting with the Racial and Cultural Diversity Commission was previously planned, and focused on a report card the commission issued based on Buckner’s job performance. During the meeting, some members criticized the way officers respond during some situations, such as when a state representative was arrested for filming officers.

“It’s so easy to stand outside the lion’s den, and watch people in the center, here, wrestle with the lion,” Buckner told the group. “And you say to that individual, ‘you’re not supposed to hit that lion in the head! Well, well, you can’t kick that lion.’ Well, you get in here and wrestle with the lion!”

The commission members asked Buckner a lot about LRPD’s hiring and training policies. He said he tries his best to bring the right people into the department. He also told the group that he does not understand why one bad police officer defines an entire department, when a bad doctor does not define the university that trained him or her.

“There’s no system in place, and if you’re aware of one, I would respectfully take it from you, that’s gonna make us ‘bad-proof,’” he stated. “You’re always gonna have apples that do outside of what we expect them to do.”

The use of force is a big issue around the country, and police officers have now killed three people in Central Arkansas in the last month: two in Benton, and one in Little Rock. Each incident brings a new layer of scrutiny on law enforcement.

“We want them to be reasonable and necessary with that force, Buckner explained. “We want to use the least amount of force that’s required to be able to sustain an arrest, or to gain compliance with an individual.”

Buckner asked the commission for the report card, which it issued in April. Tuesday was his first chance to deliver a formal response. The report card gave him low marks for several dimensions of race relations and community relations. He explained that, since he became chief, 49 percent of his hires have been white; 36 percent have been black; 12 percent have been Hispanic; three percent identify as a different race; 79 percent were men; and 21 percent were women. Additionally, 54 percent of the people he promoted were white, compared to 43 percent black and three percent Hispanic. The percentage of men and women who earned promotions was the same as the percentages who were hired.

But Buckner said hiring minorities is a challenge that is not easy to complete. “That’s something that we work on diligently,” he said. “This is a very tough profession to recruit for. You only need to look at what happened in our city within the past 24 hours to understand why it’s difficult to recruit for this profession.”

Buckner also talked about the fact that black men are so often named as suspects in criminal investigations. He said his only interest is to give the public information, and mentioned that race is not a factor in committing crimes. Instead, he blamed social issues like poverty, drug abuse, and single-parent homes are the most frequent factors that lead people toward crime.

“But we all cannot deny that when you talk about those social issues, who they predominantly impact, Buckner added. “There’s no secret to that.”


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