Little Rock’s Police Chief, Kenton Buckner, spoke to a packed crowd of around 200 people at a community forum on racial profiling and citizens' rights Thursday night.
The town hall was sponsored by the National Bar Association, the W. Harold Flowers Law Society and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock's Black Law Students Association.
The evening’s panel included Benjamin Crump, attorney for the families of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, unarmed teens recently shot by police officers in Florida and Pamela Meanes, head of the National Bar Association.
Audience members listed off names of residents who had been killed in recent officer involved shootings in Arkansas, including Troy Ellison, a 67 year old black man shot in his hope by Little Rock Police Department officers in 2010.
Buckner acknowledged the department has inflicted scars in the community. He promised to hold officers accountable going forward.
Buckner said he while he sees the African American community fired up about police shootings that have received media attention in other states, the real problem to focus on, is murder within the African American community. He said he has a list of 38 recent gun violence victims whose deaths were not protested.
“You’re getting ready to jump on these buses… run to all these other cities where these popular, sexy things are going on. Because we want to look like we’re a part of a movement. Move your backyard,” he said.
Michael Laux, lawyer for the family of Troy Ellison asked the chief if he would invite the Department of Justice to investigate the department’s patterns and practices for investigating shootings and other uses of force.
Chief Buckner responded such a request would have to be made from an outside attorney. Meanes disagreed.
“In all due respect chief, your department can submit to an investigation with the justice department. Baltimore did it, a black chief, and he did it because he recognized he wanted to get away from the past,” she said.
Meanes is heading a national campaign to fight police brutality, which recently made open records requests for police department documents in 25 cities nationwide, including Little Rock.