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Little Rock vice mayor apologizes for 'hug-a-thug' remark during debate over gun-violence resolution

Hines: ‘Hug-a-thug’ offensive by Joseph Flaherty | February 3, 2022 at 6:52 a.m.
Lance Hines

LITTLE ROCK -- Little Rock Vice Mayor Lance Hines on Wednesday apologized for "an offensive and inappropriate description" during a city board meeting the day before in which he cast the city's community-intervention programs as "hug-a-thug."

Hines' initial comments came when members of the Little Rock Board of Directors on Tuesday were discussing a resolution from Mayor Frank Scott Jr. to declare community violence and gun-related crimes a public health emergency in the city.

The resolution symbolically committed the city to pursuing a "holistic approach" to address violence.

When it was his turn to provide feedback on the proposal, Hines, who has represented Ward 5 since 2011, said it was not true that all the city was doing was policing.

He added that during his time on the board, officials have spent $5.5 million a year on prevention, intervention and treatment programs.

The city's Department of Community Programs oversees those dollars and contracts with local groups in an effort to provide services, reduce crime and help at-risk youth.

"And this holistic approach -- and this is going to offend some -- the hug-a-thug does not work; it has never worked," Hines said.

Moments later he said the city ought to request aid from the governor and Arkansas State Police to have troopers help patrol the city.

"And I disagree," Hines said, apparently referring to previous comments, "I think what we need is a little bit of a police state to get control of our streets in the short-term until we can get all these programs rolled out."

In a Twitter thread Wednesday afternoon, Hines wrote: "Last night in a heated debate about the ongoing violent crime in our community I used an offensive and inappropriate description of our Youth Prevention and Intervention programs. I sincerely apologize for that characterization."

"I am committed to support those programs as I have for the last 11 years as a city director. My comment has unfortunately taken the focus off the problem at hand, which is violent crime and a safer Little Rock," Hines added. "I definitely feel the long-term solution to the ongoing violent crime in Little Rock lies within those programs and co-ordination with pro-active policing with the Little Rock Police Department."

Two other city directors called out Hines for the remark during Tuesday's meeting, which lasted for more than four hours.

At-large City Director Antwan Phillips looked visibly stunned when Hines made his "hug-a-thug" comment, and later called Hines' language "inappropriate."

"I'm saddened that my colleague would use that, and try to use those kind of dog-whistles to indicate what's going on in the city," Phillips said.

City Director Ken Richardson of Ward 2 at one point said, "I want to apologize to the families and the participants in our programs for them being called thugs during a public meeting." Richardson said he found the comment insulting and offensive.

Hines is white; Phillips and Richardson are Black.

The resolution was ultimately approved in a 9-1 vote, with Hines as the lone "no" vote.

Print Headline: Board member sorry for remark


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