Judge tosses Little Rock police chief’s suit against union

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A federal judge on Wednesday dismissed the Little Rock police chief’s lawsuit against the local police union and several current and former officers that accused them of conspiring to force him out of his job.

U.S. District Judge Jay Moody granted the motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed last year by Chief Keith Humphrey, which was part of an ongoing public fight within the department centered on his response to the fatal shooting in 2019 of a Black motorist by a white officer.

Humphrey, who is Black, had argued the officers and union had conspired to chill his First Amendment rights by filing lawsuits against him and other actions.

Moody, however, said comments he made about his policing philosophy that he claims the union and officers retaliated against him over weren’t constitutionally protected since he made them when he was chief in Norman, Oklahoma.

Humphrey, who was hired in 2019, has clashed with the Little Rock Fraternal Order of Police and he has been sued by several current and former officers over promotions, disciplinary cases and other issues.

“My clients are obviously pleased with the decision dismissing the chief’s lawsuit, but there’s still concern the city has enabled the chief to continue his campaign of retaliation and discrimination for so long,” Tim Steadman, an attorney for several of the officers, said.

An attorney for Humphrey said the chief would weigh his options but said he believed it was likely the lawsuit would filed again and include the city as a defendant.

Humphrey “steadfastly stands by his position that the lawsuits have no merit, that they are harassing, that they are part of a conspiracy to lose his job and to hurt him professionally, and to thwart the reforms he is trying to bring and has brought,” Attorney Mike Laux said.

The defendants in the dismissed lawsuit included Charles Starks, the white officer who Humphrey fired over the shooting of Bradley Blackshire. Starks was later reinstated by a judge but he later submitted his resignation. The state Court of Appeals last week overturned the order to reinstate Starks.

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