Little Rock officer suspended for not reporting social media slur

Posted: January 25, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.

A Little Rock police sergeant says he has received a 10-day suspension after reporting a recruit's racial slur on social media to a black police association, instead of to a department supervisor.

A department spokesman confirmed the suspension of Sgt. Willie Davis, but would not comment on why he was suspended.

Davis, who joined the department in 1991, said he reported the social media post to the Little Rock Black Police Officers Association, which sent a letter to Police Chief Kenton Buckner expressing concern about the recruit.

According to Davis, the department said the post should have been reported to a supervisor, and not doing so led to the suspension.

Lt. Michael Ford, a Little Rock police spokesman, said Davis' 10-day suspension began on Monday. Davis, who is a vice president in the black officers' association, said he is appealing the suspension. Davis said he had never before been suspended from the department.

The association's letter to Buckner, sent in November, raised concerns about then-recruit Brandon Schiefelbein, who in a June 2013 Facebook post used a slur offensive to black people. The letter described the recruit's Facebook post as "very careless, distasteful and demeaning."

"We will not sit silently and allow or wait for the City of Little Rock to unfold a welcome mat for this recruit. We will not tolerate it!" the association's letter read. "His words have made it clear regarding his thoughts about African Americans. We will not allow him to act on how he feels about us."

Use the form below to sign up for any or all of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's free newsletters:


The department fired Schiefelbein over the post after opening an internal investigation.

In a letter to Schiefelbein, Buckner wrote that the recruit's comments on social media "caused complaints both from within the Department and from citizens in the community."

Before Schiefelbein was fired, the recruit's attorney, Robert Newcomb, sent a letter to the chief saying it would be unfair to fire the recruit over the contentious Facebook post.

Newcomb, in previous interview, described the post as a joke among friends and said it occurred when Schiefelbein was a teenager -- years before he became a police recruit.

In the letter, Newcomb said Brandon Gurley, a black police recruit who raised concerns about Schiefelbein's post, appears to also have used the same racial slur in past posts on Facebook.

Gurley was also fired from the department last month.

In a letter informing Gurley of his termination, Buckner said the recruit violated a department policy that states "officers shall be truthful at all times, whether under oath or not, when conducting official police business."

"You have made several inconsistent statements during this investigation," he wrote in the letter. Buckner also said Gurley violated a separate department policy as a result of comments the recruit made on social media.

Before Gurley was fired, Davis said the recruit had reached out to him to talk about how he was being treated during his training and mentioned Schiefelbein's post. Davis said he did not take the Facebook post to a supervisor because he did not want any retaliation for the recruit.

The black police association has been publicly critical of Buckner's leadership in the past.

Last summer, in a letter to elected city leaders, the association called for an investigation into the "discrimination, inequities, and disparaging treatment of minority officers and supervisors" under Buckner's leadership.

"We allege that black officers and supervisors are disrespected by white officers regularly, and black supervisors are only allowed to render discipline to a certain degree," according to the letter, which was dated in July.

The association also accused him of being "very reluctant" to discipline white supervisors and officers while having "no hesitation when it comes to disciplining black officers and supervisors."

The letter prompted a departmentwide memo from Buckner, who is black. He wrote that disagreeing with agency decisions is not the same as being discriminated against.

In the memo, Buckner said he strives to be consistent and fair in his decision-making while keeping in mind the best interests of the city and the department. Discipline, he said, is a subjective area of his duties as chief, and criticism of discipline is often based on rumors and partial information.

"Officers have the right to disagree with management decisions, but disagreement does not mean you have been the victim of discrimination," Buckner wrote.

Buckner on Wednesday declined to comment on Davis' suspension.

Metro on 01/25/2018