LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Little Rock police leaders opened the comment section again on the department’s Facebook page after temporarily disabling people from responding to their posts.
The law enforcement agency normally allows citizens to comment on posts, photos and videos but the department turned the feature off for several days but turned it back on quickly after inquiries from reporters.
Wednesday morning, with comments having been on for several hours, the department’s Facebook page is a mixed bag of comments. Some users made comments praising the department and its officers while others made statements decrying modern culture and police procedure.
Little Rock Police spokesman Mark Edwards said in a written statement the Facebook comments feature was turned off due to hostile replies.
“While realizing that ours is a diverse community, we also recognize that with that diversity comes a multitude of differing opinions,” Edwards wrote. “With this in mind, it is not our intention that our platform becomes one that hosts hostility, discord, or verbal conflict that is racially charged or has violent overtones.”
Edwards said the department is not in a position to moderate the comments in real-time.
“Our focus was to allow a period of time for some of the more recent acrimonious comments to relax,” Edwards wrote. “Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinions. However, LRPD does not seek to host a public space for strife and online conflict.”
The department uses its Facebook page to post public safety alerts including homicides, shootings and other community-related events.
The Little Rock Police Department has faced scrutiny in recent weeks concerning transparency.
Several members of the Little Rock Board of Directors have publicly called for changes to be made related to how and when information is relayed to the public after a homicide.
“I think we need to be more transparent,” Little Rock Ward Three City Director Kathy Webb said.
Interim Police Chief Crystal Young-Haskins did not take any questions during a recent press conference surrounding the shooting of a seven-year-old girl.
The city directors said earlier this week 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.
Aaron Sadler, a spokesman for Mayor Frank Scott, Jr., said earlier this week 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.”