A Little Rock police organization garnered attention this week when it criticized one of Little Rock's mayoral candidates for associating with a man who fled law enforcement Wednesday.
The Wednesday evening Facebook post from the Little Rock Fraternal Order of Police includes an undated photo of Frank Scott Jr. talking with Roderick Talley, whose allegations of false affidavits and arrests against the Little Rock Police Department drew national attention after an October opinion piece in the Washington Post.
Talley was scheduled for a jury trial Wednesday at the Cross County Courthouse in Wynne when he ran from the building, stole a rental car and hit a deputy with the vehicle, according to the sheriff's office. According to Talley's Little Rock attorney, Mike Laux, Talley turned himself in to Cross County authorities Thursday night. Attempts to reach the Cross County sheriff's office were unsuccessful.
"Tell the guy on the left to help us find the guy on the right who's publicly supporting his campaign," the police union post reads. "The Little Rock Fraternal Order of Police want the citizens of Little Rock to know that candidates who align themselves with fleeing felons fail the qualifications for any public office."
The post went on to express support for Scott's opponent, Baker Kurrus, whom the organization had endorsed before the general election. Kurrus and Scott will face off in a runoff election Dec. 4.
Scott addressed the Facebook post in one of his own, saying it was an attempt to distract voters from the real issue at hand and that he stood by his earlier call that the U.S. Department of Justice investigate the Little Rock Police Department.
"The kind of divisive smear tactics we've seen today from the Little Rock Fraternal Order of Police has no place in our city's politics. My concerns with LRPD stem directly from what residents have said and what the Washington Post has uncovered," he said.
He went on to say that he respected law enforcement, but said officers should be as focused on protecting residents' civil rights as they are on securing communities.
John Gilchrist, president of the Little Rock Fraternal Order of Police, said he received the photo from a police officer in the organization. Gilchrist said the organization, which has nearly 600 members, was divided on which candidate to endorse.
Personally, Gilchrist said he liked Scott as a candidate, but Scott's response to the Post piece was a deal breaker. Gilchrist said Scott's letter to the U.S. Department of Justice was unsubstantiated and meant to appease voters. He said the post was not racially motivated.
"We feel he showed a lack of leadership," Gilchrist said of Scott.
Scott has publicly expressed support for Talley, whose lawsuit against the LRPD states that he was injured when police broke down his door -- and on Thursday told a reporter he was unaware of Talley's criminal background. Gilchrist said Talley has a history of being antagonistic toward the department, at times outing undercover officers on social media. In October, Talley said he supported Scott in a Facebook post that includes the same image the union's post used.
In an emailed statement, Kurrus said he had asked the organization to take down the post.
"The FOP supports our police officers and their families, as do I. I have no control over any of their messaging or what they choose to post," Kurrus wrote. "My fervent wish for our city is for its leaders to consider carefully the actions which we take, so that we can heal our city, and build a better future."
J.C. White, president of the Little Rock Black Police Officers Association, said the organization would have no official comment. Joe Howard, president of the local chapter of the International Association of Black Professional Firefighters, said he thought the post was inappropriate.
"We have a responsibility as professionals and members of a uniformed community to be better...It troubles me that as an organization your members would allow you to post such a derogatory and divisive message. No matter your choice, the tactics should remain honorable," Howard wrote in an emailed statement.
Many online commenters and Little Rock residents who spoke to a Democrat-Gazette reporter were critical of the union's post, which by Thursday night had garnered nearly 250 comments and been shared almost 400 times.
"I think it's politically ugly," said Michael Biddle, a 34-year-old deputy clerk in the Pulaski County Clerk's office.
Biddle said he believed the post had racial undertones and represented longstanding attitudes about "black criminality." He added that Talley's fleeing law enforcement didn't justify the alleged "no-knock" warrants.
Robert Coon, a 39-year-old lobbyist, said he thought it perpetuated an idea of guilt by association that was inappropriate for law enforcement to put out.
Darius Walton, a 27-year-old consultant, said he believed the post was meant to be divisive and misleading. Though it might not represent the attitudes of every member of the union, Walton said, its leadership should be held accountable.
"It just makes you wonder," Walton said. "I'm not going to say it was racially motivated, but it sure looks like it."
Metro on 11/16/2018