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story.lead_photo.caption Little Rock Police Chief Kenton Buckner on Saturday told attendees at a forum on police relations with the Hispanic community that while he can’t control national or state policies on immigration, “I do have control over how you are treated in our city by our police.” - Photo by Staton Breidenthal

Little Rock Police Chief Kenton Buckner discussed Hispanic immigration issues and police-community relations at a public forum Saturday afternoon.

Photo by Staton Breidenthal
Little Rock Police Chief Kenton Buckner takes part Saturday in a public forum on police relations with the city’s Hispanic community, one of several recent community-outreach events arranged by the Police Department.

About 100 people, most of them Spanish speakers, attended the question-and-answer session at Mosaic Church on Colonel Glenn Road. Buckner repeated the Police Department's policy on illegal immigration early in the discussion. He said police leave immigration enforcement to the federal government.

Buckner said the department contacts immigration authorities only in violent cases and felony cases.

Hispanic groups across the country have questioned whether local police departments will enforce stricter immigration and deportation policies enacted by President Donald Trump. Police in New York, California, Illinois and numerous other states have reported policies similar to Little Rock's.

[U.S. immigration: Data visualization of selected immigration statistics, U.S. border map]

"I have no control over the White House," Buckner said Saturday. "I have no control over the state. I do have control over how you are treated in our city by our police."

The forum was one of several Buckner has recently attended as part the department's effort to strengthen its relationship with Hispanics, who account for about 7 percent of Little Rock's population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Another part of that effort has been recruiting. The majority-white department has focused on hiring more Hispanics in recent years and will continue to do so, Buckner said Saturday.

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Eleven percent of the officers hired since June 2014, when Buckner was sworn in as police chief, have been Hispanic, according to the department.

The department has also started a Spanish-language citizens police academy and sent Spanish-speaking officers to churches and neighborhood meetings to build trust.

But some who spoke at the forum Saturday said they still felt uneasy about the department. One woman told Buckner that an officer behaved inappropriately toward her and another woman four years ago, and she never reported it because she feared retaliation from the officer.

Another woman said the department had wrongfully refused to help her obtain a U visa. That's a nonimmigrant visa issued to crime victims and their family members if they help authorities in prosecuting or investigating a case.

Buckner, flanked by two Spanish-speaking officers, said he understood why people might feel uncomfortable asking the department for help. But he encouraged them to report officer misconduct and other mistakes, warning that not doing so can make matters worse.

"People who know you are afraid to speak up are more likely to mistreat you," he said.

Buckner spent most of the forum speaking through a translator, but switched to Spanish to emphasize certain statements. He said he hired a tutor to help him learn Spanish three months ago.

Forum attendees Nicolas Trujillo and his wife, Cecelia Chacon-Trujillo, said they appreciated that Buckner was learning the language.

"One way that people start to begin to connect is through communication," she said. "So he's made an effort to learn Spanish, and I know these people in here are also making an effort to learn English."

Nicolas Trujillo said the Police Department's interest in the Hispanic community is the highest he's seen since he moved to Little Rock in 1990.

"I never felt that before," he said. "I don't think they actively reached out to the community like [Buckner] has. He's not only trying to educate our community, but he's also educating himself so he can understand us better."

Jason Smith said he traveled from Arkadelphia with his wife to attend the forum Saturday. He said they're Christians and want to help ensure that immigrants, legal or not, can live safely with "basic human rights and basic human dignity."

"I think we're in a moment with national politics where it's really divisive," Smith said. "And I think that it's important on a local level to show that we're supportive of our immigrant neighbors, whether they be undocumented or not."

Metro on 04/02/2017

Print Headline: LR police will leave immigration to federal agents, chief tells forum

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  • KnuckleBall
    April 2, 2017 at 3:28 a.m.

    City of Little Rock has more to worry about than doing the Feds job...!!!

    April 2, 2017 at 12:58 p.m.

    Good News from the Police Department, Yes

  • mrcharles
    April 2, 2017 at 3:07 p.m.

    Knuckle as one that has house & cars broken into and escaped one robbery attempt YOU HAVE SOUND WISDOM THERE.

  • NRC
    April 2, 2017 at 3:24 p.m.

    When is Little Rock Police Chief Kenton Buckner going to address the ongoing epidemic of violent crime committed by young black males? Are these attackers from all over or just certain neighborhoods? Are they dropouts from certain schools? What's going to be different going forward? Where's the increase in ethics and skills going to come from besides prison? What other opportunities to succeed other than crime?

  • LR1955
    April 2, 2017 at 4:32 p.m.

    I've met Cheif Buckner at a couple of Coffee with Cops events. I highly recommend you attend one and talk to these people in person. I think He's really trying, but I feel the city "leaders" are holding him back, and the judges don't have his back. He's got a thankless job made worse by the circumstances.
    I for one, don't care if he hires Black, Hispanic, or White recruites, from Little Rock or living out of town, just fix the hiring procedure & criteria and get some more! Get this town's crime wave under control!!!!

  • skeptic1
    April 2, 2017 at 4:59 p.m.

    Since his hire the homicide and violent crime rate in Little Rock has escalated to the point no neighborhood is immune. How nice to know this feckless police chief will allow the federal government to enforce its laws...he needs to go.

  • Packman
    April 2, 2017 at 9:21 p.m.

    Hey LR1955 - Chief Buckner wasted finite resources early on making sure "social justice" was achieved with police interactions with transsexuals. Instead of working to address real crime, the good chief was more interested in making sure a man dressed like a woman is frisked and driven to jail by a female cop. LR doesn't need a social justice warrior as police chief; LR needs another Tommy Robinson.

  • TimberTopper
    April 3, 2017 at 4:17 a.m.

    libertas and Packy, could either of you do better, and if so how?

  • mrcharles
    April 3, 2017 at 6:30 p.m.

    Yeah re3ad about TR. What a bully and a$$ whole. Judge Mixon put him in his place the loud mouth lunitic, but he still has his heroes just like Putin after his evil deeds [ some say he has one high up in USA politics]

    Hopefully we will spend all of our time with busting prostitutes, and making sure a all white police force will bring a certain aspect to the force. What a shame sea bass disrespects all the officers of all races, creeds and gender who help protect us.

    All hail his highness of Hate!

    It is all so easy. Surely just one factor is in affect, incarcerating more in the most incarcerated artificial boundary land mass in the world.