LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Months of growing conflict surrounding Little Rock’s Police Chief will reach a new point Tuesday, when city leaders are set to vote on whether they have confidence in him.
The city’s Board of Directors will hold an unprecedented vote during their 6 p.m. meeting.
In a Working 4 You investigation, we learned they could be casting their votes without all the information. The city has been looking into Chief Keith Humphrey, at least since March. The investigations have been kept quiet and haven’t been used to either clear Chief Humphrey’s name or take action.
In April 2019, Chief Humphrey was sworn in at the Little Rock Police Department.
Almost a year later in May 2020, the Chief was the center of a misconduct allegation, exposed in a Working 4 You investigation.
At the time city Board of Directors member Lance Hines, told us he did not believe Chief Humphrey should keep his badge.
“We need a change in leadership in the Little Rock Police Department,” Hines said during an interview.
Seven months later, Hines put action behind his words and wrote a ‘no confidence’ resolution that’s now in front of the Board of Directors.
“I think he’s in over his head,” Hines said. “Displeasure and lack of confidence that Chief can continue to lead.”
There’s already one vote he can’t rely on. Board member Ken Richardson said he stands behind the Chief.
“I have full confidence in him,” Richardson said.
Richardson called the resolution an overstep for involving the Board of Directors in conversation he believed they have no part in.
“I don’t have any confidence in it, no pun intended, in the resolution,” Richardson added. “We’re not elected to run any departments, we’re not elected to do staff management.”
Hines said it is necessary and there’s plenty of proof something needs to change with Chief Humphrey, but he said there hasn’t been any action by Mayor Frank Scott Jr., who holds the hiring and firing power for the Chief.
“The Mayor has to pivot and make a decision,” Hines said.
Hines pointed to allegations that grew over the past year and were exposed in our investigations.
The Chief is accused of sexually harassing female employees.
Several credit card companies sued Chief Humphrey for outstanding debt racked up before he was hired, which could have disqualified him for the job.
A Pulaski County circuit court judge ruled Chief Humphrey wrongly fired a police officer over a deadly shooting, that prosecutors deemed was a justified use of force.
We uncovered Chief Humphrey pushed ahead a friend for a department job who lied on the application. All the while, the Chief never mentioned knowing her, even though his car was seen outside her house early one April morning, days after she applied for the job.
In May, the Little Rock Fraternal Order of Police started a vote where the majority of officers said they had “no confidence” in the Chief.
“That’s all been expressed to the Mayor over the last 6-9 months,” Hines said. “The Mayor decided not to take action so I felt it time.”
Also in the past year, nearly a dozen current and former employees sued Chief Humphrey in a total of five lawsuits.
Their claims included harassment and retaliation.
Chief Humphrey said those allegations against him are part of a conspiracy to get him off the force.
In September he filed a federal lawsuit and claimed his accusers are jeopardizing his civil rights.
“He could resign tomorrow, that would make all these issues go away,” Hines said. “I don’t think he is because I think the Mayor has told him he supports him.”
Richardson believes the allegations are part of an organized attack.
“This is the norm when you have a department head, change in leadership that you have criticism,” he said.
Hines called on Mayor Frank Scott Jr. to take action, since he is the one with the final say on punishing or firing the Chief of Police.
“I would hope the Mayor would do the right thing, but right up until now he hasn’t done the right thing. He’s let a situation go from tenuous, to bad, to worse and it’s not getting any better,” Hines added.
HR OPENS INVESTIGATIONS
Before the first lawsuit hit was filed against the Chief in May, the city looked into claims involving Humphrey. It’s one of at least two internal investigations. The results are sealed because they’re personnel files and can only be released if someone is suspended or fired.
It also means the Board of Directors are voting without the full picture.
“If there was something there than they should be taking action where the Chief was concerned,” Hines said.
At city hall Mayor Scott and City Manager Bruce Moore, aren’t talking. We asked both of them about the “no confidence” resolution and the HR investigations and were told because they’re personnel matters the city won’t talk about it.
E-mails we uncovered shed some light. Messages between the Mayor’s Senior Advisor Kendra Pruitt and City Attorney Tom Carpenter talk about one of the investigations.
In one e-mail, Carpenter discussed, “honesty complaints” that involve the Chief and his Assistant Chiefs. Carpenter questioned if trust was, “damaged” and followed up with, “it seems to me a loss of trust at that level should be a basis for action.”
“The failure to act will get us sued,” Hines said.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS REMAIN DIVIDED
No matter what the investigations found, Hines says he’s seen enough and his mind is made up.
“We’re going to get sued either way,” he said. “Do you get sued over getting rid of an ineffective Police Chief, or do you continue getting sued for valid claims for retaliation and harassment?”
Meanwhile Richardson says the “no confidence” resolution is just more proof of an organized attack on the Chief.
“It seems like it was something intentional and really deliberate,” Richardson said. “It is safe to say I won’t be voting for this.”
Votes can’t change anything, they can only show which Board members think the Chief should lose his badge. It boils down to a symbolic vote, where the decision of what to do next ultimately falls on the Mayor.
Chief Humphrey declined to comment on this story.