LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Some Little Rock leaders are sounding the alarm on what some call a lack of transparency from the police force following a rash of shootings and homicides, including the murder of a child.
“Too many times I have to tell them that I don’t know,” said Little Rock Ward Three City Director Kathy Webb.
Webb along with several other Board of Directors said the days of little information from the Little Rock Police Department needs to end.
“I think we need to be more transparent,” Webb said.
Concerns exploded after seven-year-old Chloe Alexander was killed on Fair Park. Some feared an active shooter at the city’s zoo after rumors spread.
LRPD alerted the public about a homicide investigation with a tweet at 12:43 pm said that Saturday but released very few details until the following Monday afternoon.
Interim Chief Crystal Young-Haskins held a news conference but the city’s police force did not take any questions.
“I don’t think it’s acceptable,” said Little Rock Ward Seven City Director BJ Wyrick.
Wyrick said she often has to depend on the media for information.
“We have to watch the news,” she said.
The city directors said they do not want to compromise an ongoing investigation but basic facts are important.
“Whenever there are secrets — [waited] 36 hours,” said Little Rock Position 10-At Large City Director Joan Adcock. “That’s not how we should serve the citizens of Little Rock.”
Adcock said she would like LRPD to brief the public after every homicide, something officers used to do but has not in some time. She said when the department holds back, fear and rumors spread.
“The person they have just shuts off everything and people are not used to that. People are used to being answered,” Adcock said.
Little Rock Ward Four City Director Capi Peck said she is very concerned about the lines of communication between the police department and community.
“When a homicide occurs in a director‘s ward, our constituents expect us to have information to share,” Peck said in a written statement. “It is time to update the way the LRPD communicates and disseminates information about crime in our city.”
Aaron Sadler, a spokesman for Mayor Frank Scott, Jr., said in a statement that the police department has a responsibility to protect the integrity of ongoing investigations.
“Mayor Scott supports LRPD in its decisions as to what information it releases and when it does so,” Sadler wrote. “In an effort to ensure transparency while not compromising ongoing investigations, Mayor Scott has discussed with LRPD ways it can use social media to keep the public updated.”
KARK 4 News reached out to request an interview with Little Rock Police about the transparency concerns, but that request was denied.
Records show in the last six months, at least eight of our interview requests on various topics have been denied.
KARK 4 News reached out to the other city directors but has not heard back.
Full statement from Mayor Scott’s office:
“The Police Department has a responsibility to protect the integrity of ongoing investigations, and Mayor Scott supports LRPD in its decisions as to what information it releases and when it does so. The Freedom of Information Act specifically exempts from disclosure the records of ongoing investigations, and that exemption is necessary to allow investigators to effectively pursue justice and protect the rights of both victims and suspects.
In an effort to ensure transparency while not compromising ongoing investigations, Mayor Scott has discussed with LRPD ways it can use social media to keep the public updated.”
Full statement from Director Peck:
“I am very concerned about the lines of communication between the LRPD and the community. I, along with most of my colleagues on the City Board, have expressed our frustration to Mayor Scott both publicly at our board meetings and privately. When a homicide occurs in a director‘s ward, our constituents expect us to have information to share.
I completely understand the lack of information if this pertains to an ongoing investigation that could perhaps be compromised, but we need to at least be alerted and not kept in the dark.
My most recent experience happened just a week ago when a homicide occurred in Pleasant Valley. I first read about it on Nextdoor. I finally got information 2 1/2 days later, and the major who gave me the details of the homicide was equally frustrated about how long it took for a public explanation.
People reach out to me assuming I am in the loop. The optics of this lack of transparency are really damaging because our residents begin to distrust the whole system.
There’s a lot of information on Twitter from the LRPD which is great for people connected to different social media platforms. For many different reasons though, some people don’t access those platforms.
It is time to update the way the LRPD communicates and disseminates information about crime in our city.”
As transparency becomes a key concern for some city officials, the comment feature on the Little Rock Police Facebook page has been disabled on the majority of posts.
KARK 4 News has reached out to ask Little Rock Police about it but has not yet received a response.