January 24, 2022 6:00am

Community Leaders Concerned about Crime, Split on Police Chief

Restaurants Requiring Vaccination Draw Praise, Governor's Tax Cuts Don't

Photo of Griffin Coop
Little Rock, AR Correspondent
 

Community leaders in Little Rock are concerned about crime but are split about their confidence in the city’s police chief, according to the results of the city’s first Power Poll survey.

Respondents to the poll also said they would be more likely to go to a restaurant that requires proof of vaccination and said they do not support Governor Asa Hutchinson’s tax package that was signed into law last month.

Operating in 35 markets across the country, Power Poll is a monthly email survey that gauges the feelings of local leaders on topics of interest to the community. Although not a scientific survey, Power Poll surveys provide important insights into how community leaders are thinking.

If you know of a community leader who should be added to the list, you can make recommendations by emailing Little Rock correspondent Griffin Coop at gcoop@powerpoll.com.

The first Little Rock Power Poll asked two questions related to public safety in a city that saw violent crime rise last year and where the police chief has been under fire. First, every respondent said they were concerned to some degree about rising violent crime rates in the city with 52% saying they were deeply concerned about the issue and 48% saying they were somewhat concerned about it. No respondent said they were unconcerned about the issue.

Last year, Little Rock recorded 64 homicides (a 14% increase over the previous year) and a 22% increase in violent crimes. In a New Year’s Eve press conference, Police Chief Keith Humphrey compared Little Rock’s homicides to those in other southern cities such as Jackson, Baton Rouge and Birmingham. Jackson had 129 homicides last year, Birmingham had 122 and Baton Rouge had 167.

In October, Mayor Frank Scott unveiled a plan to combat crime that included an increase in officer pay and the creation of an Office of Neighborhood Safety among other things.

Power Poll members were split in their confidence in Little Rock Police Chief Keith Humphrey with 43% saying they do not have confidence in him and 38% saying they do have confidence in him. Another 19% said they didn’t know.

Humphrey has faced a number of lawsuits from Little Rock officers alleging that he has retaliated against them unfairly. City Director Lance Hines considered asking the Board of Directors for a vote of no confidence in Humphrey in December 2020 but the city board ultimately did not vote on the issue. A Human Resources investigation last year revealed that an investigator referred to a situation in the Police Department as a “crisis.”

Humphrey’s supporters, such as retired Judge Marion Humphrey (no relation), have argued that Humphrey is being targeted by the Fraternal Order of Police and officers who do not agree with decisions he has made. An in-depth article in The Intercept in December suggested that Chief Humphrey is attempting to reform the department and that he is being unfairly targeted by his opponents.

In other Power Poll questions, as Covid cases reach record highs in the state, 62% of survey respondents said they would be more likely to go to a restaurant that requires proof of vaccination. Only 29% said they would be less likely to go to such a restaurant with 10% saying they didn’t know.

Among the Little Rock restaurants requiring proof of vaccination are Trio’s Restaurant on Cantrell Road, White Water Tavern on W. 7th Street and 42 Bar and Table at the Clinton Presidential Center. (Trio’s and White Water Tavern have some exceptions for customers who produce proof of a recent negative test).

In the past month, Covid cases have risen sharply in Arkansas and in Pulaski County as the Omicron variant has made its way through the state. Arkansas set a record on Wednesday with reports of 14,494 new covid cases and a record 1,600 people hospitalized with Covid.

Power Poll members also said that they did not support Gov. Hutchinson’s tax cut package. More than half (52%) of respondents said they did not support Gov. Hutchinson’s tax cuts, while 38% said they did. Another 10% said they didn’t know.

Last month, the state legislature passed a tax cut package that Gov. Hutchinson called “the largest tax-cut bill in the history of Arkansas.” Opponents of the package, such as state Senator Clarke Tucker, said the cuts disproportionately benefitted the wealthy and that the money was needed to support state services. The tax cuts passed the Republican-led legislature with an 82-16 margin in the state house and a 29-4 margin in the state senate.

If you have questions or suggestions for the Little Rock Power Poll, contact Griffin Coop at gcoop@powerpoll.com.

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