The Little Rock Police Department’s vacant positions of authorized, sworn police personnel has continued to climb.
According to the city’s finance director, the number of vacancies among sworn personnel in the department has reached 48.
The Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported that the Little Rock Board of Directors received a memo from the city manager’s office stating that the department had 76 full-time, budgeted vacant positions, as well as 14 full-time vacancies in the city’s fire department.
Among the department’s vacancies, more than half were sworn roles; sergeant roles and 46 officer roles remain vacant out of the 594 total authorized, sworn positions, the memo said.
City Finance Director Sara Lenehan blamed the COVID-19 pandemic for the city’s hiring woes.
“I believe most City departments are suffering higher turnover and vacancy rates since the beginning of the Pandemic,” Lenehan wrote.
Since Lenehan first remarked on the department’s vacancies in March, 13 more positions have opened up.
However, the numbers aren’t the highest on record. 2017 and 2011 were years with similarly high vacancy rates.
Lenehan said that on June 30, 2017, 100 positions were vacant — 74 uniformed and 26 civilian positions. “The June 30, 2017, vacancy rate may be the highest in recent years, but I cannot be sure,” she wrote.
According to the Gazette, the department has been embroiled in internal conflict since the shooting of Bradley Blackshire last year by former officer Charles Starks.
Chief Keith Humphrey terminated Starks after the shooting, who was temporarily reinstated by a judge. The police chief was then sued by colleagues for his handling of the investigation. Humphrey also filed countersuits against his employees, and is the subject of an internal investigation by the city after complaints from police personnel.
It is unclear if the conflict has any bearing on the vacancies.
Lenehan qualified her report by acknowledging that the authorized number of uniformed personnel within the Police Department, 594, is “the highest it has ever been” despite the vacancies.
“There were 37 more authorized uniform positions than the same date 10 years ago and 42 more filled [uniform] positions than that date,” she said.