State Rep. Fred Allen, D-Little Rock, says Little Rock’s African-American community and city police force must improve communication in order to get a stronger handle on the violent crime that has rocked the state’s capital.
“If we don’t bridge that relationship between the community and African-Americans and the police department, I think eventually, we’re going to be just one bullet away from a Ferguson. Because if people see the police as being aggressive and then some see it as being police brutality — that’s a thin line that we’ve got to walk,” Allen said.
Allen’s legislative counterpart, State Rep. Andy Davis, R-Little Rock, contends that the main way that relationship can improve is if the city fills some of the 70 vacancies it has on its police force.
“There’s got to be a better relationship, but it takes time to build that relationship and until the city puts the needed number of officers in the communities, they’re not going to have enough time to meet people and develop those relationships,” said Davis. “They’ve got to have the flexibility in their schedules,… in their patrol and what not to be able to stop. If they’re all the time responding to things, they never get to stop and have a conversation and get to know the people.”
Little Rock garnered national headlines a week ago when a nightclub shooting injured more than two dozen nightclub attendees in a downtown hotspot. Although there were no fatalities, the city has seen roughly 30 murders this year. High profile violent crimes involving drive-by shootings, armed robbery and assaults have also been dominant in the news.
“I think one of the things that we’ve got to look at, whenever we have a lot of crime escalating in communities around the city and around metropolitan areas, you will see there are some deficiencies with the educational system,” said Allen. “I think right now, there’s some problems with our educational system. I think there are some problems with parenting, I think it’s just a combination of things. But every crime that’s committed, and although crime is escalating in the city, it’s fixable, everything is fixable.”
“It’s a horribly complicated problem. But you’ve got people in all phases of life, and you’ve got young people where it’s education, you’ve got people who have already committed crimes and they’re in the parole system, and we’ve got to address that and shortages there,” he said. “Education plays a factor, work plays a factor. One of the biggest things we’ve got to start doing is getting our people when they’re young and teaching them to make better choices. We’ve got to give them options, one, and then we’ve got to teach them how to pick the better option.”
Watch more of their conversation in the video below.