Former Little Rock Police Department Chief of Police Keith Humphrey, one of two final candidates for the open Chief of Police position for IUPD, fielded questions from university faculty and staff about his vision for the department, if chosen for the role, during a town hall Monday afternoon in the Indiana Memorial Union Maple Room.
Humphrey is running to replace former IU Chief of Police Jill Lees, who departed from the department in September after serving in the position since 2019. IUPD did not release any further information on why Lees left the department and previously declined to comment on her departure.
Shortly after Lees’ departure, the Indiana Daily Student reported IU settled a civil rights lawsuit involving the arrest of IU graduate student Moses Baryoh Jr. after he did not pay a $3 parking fee in September 2022. IU conducted a secondary review in the summer of 2023 and found the involved officers, Austin Magness and Charlotte Watts, violated IUPD policy, which contradicted the former chief’s initial review of the incident from October 2022. The secondary review also found Lees failed to follow mandatory review protocols following the arrest.
During the town hall, Humphrey spoke to a crowd of 15 IU faculty and staff members in the Indiana Memorial Union Maple Room, in addition to attendees on Zoom. In his opening comments, Humphrey said he has always wanted to work in a leadership role at a college campus police department.
Humphrey said if he were the IUPD Chief of Police, he would emphasize a proactive policing approach, which focuses on helping people and working to learn about campus populations’ different experiences and biases.
“Every one of these students deserve to be protected,” Humphrey said. “Everybody deserves to be served the same way.”
Humphrey said he would strengthen relationships between IUPD and the general IU community by having officers attend more community events. He also encouraged faculty in attendance to introduce themselves to an IUPD officer. He said for many students, coming to IU is their first time away from home, which presents officers an opportunity to mentor and bond with students.
Humphrey also said that he would work with municipal, county and campus police to prepare for and address any threats on IU campuses. He emphasized that communication with police, faculty, staff and students is important when handling a situation.
“I’m an open book,” Humphrey said. “I don’t believe in hiding things. Faculty, students and staff need to know.”
Humphrey said that when he was working for municipal police departments near college campuses – such as when he worked as Chief of Police for the City of Norman in Oklahoma, the location of the University of Oklahoma – he worked with student leaders to hear their concerns. For instance, he invited students to his police department’s daily briefings and shared body camera footage. He even said he marched in protest with students. Before student-led protests, Humphrey said he met with students to ensure the events were safe.
“It hurts my feelings if a student says they are afraid of police,” Humphrey said. “Because it prevents them from reporting things that happen.”
At the conclusion of the meeting, attendees were encouraged to scan a QR code to fill out a survey about Humphrey.
IU Public Safety Communications Manager Mary Keck said Humphrey and the second final candidate for chief of police, Tamara McCollough, will meet with members of IU Public Safety and IUPD in private forums. Following these forums, members of the selection committee will choose one candidate. However, Keck said there is not an estimated timeline of when there will be a final decision.
Keith Humphrey’s background
According to Humphrey’s Curriculum Vitae, he worked in the City of Arlington in Texas as a patrol, training and internal affairs sergeant, serving in the role from 2000 to 2005. From 2005 to 2007, Humphrey served as the Geographic Patrol Sector Commander for the City of Arlington and later as the criminal support commander from 2007 to 2008.
Humphrey served as the Chief of Police for the City of Lancaster in Texas from 2008 to 2011. He then worked as the Chief of Police for the City of Norman in Oklahoma from 2011 to 2019, before becoming Chief of Police for the City of Little Rock in 2019. He retired from his position at the City of Little Rock in 2022.
The Arkansas Democrat Gazette reported in May 2022 Humphrey stepped down as Chief of Police after a series of internal conflicts within the police department. According to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, Humprey had publicly clashed with members of the police department and leadership from a local police union, the Little Rock Fraternal Order of Police.
In January 2022, The Intercept reported on efforts to oust Humphrey from his position in a podcast titled “Little Rock’s Black Police Chief and the Campaign Against Reform.” In their investigation, The Intercept found most of the allegations against Humphrey did not hold up against scrutiny. The Intercept reported that before Humphrey became Chief of Police, Black officers in the Little Rock Police Department had alleged the Fraternal Order of Police, the only recognized bargaining organization for officers and sergeants in the city of Little Rock, primarily represented the interests of white officers. Several officers interviewed voiced their experiences of repeated racial discrimination within the department.
Humphrey was Chief of Police during the fallout from the fatal shooting of Bradley Blackshire, a 30-year-old Black man who was shot 15 times through the windshield of a car and killed by Little Rock Police Officer Charles Starks in February 2019. Starks did not face any charges in connection to the shooting, which took place before Humphrey was appointed Chief of Police in April 2019.
In May 2019, Humphrey fired the Starks for violating police rules related to Stark’s actions in the shooting. However, a county judge reversed Humphrey’s decision in January 2020 and ordered the city to reinstate Starks. An Arkansas Court of Appeals decision later reversed this county judge’s order in September 2021.
Shortly after terminating Starks, several members of his police department, including two assistant chiefs, sued Humphrey, alleging he retaliated against them due to their testimony during Stark’s appeal of his termination. Humphrey filed a countersuit in September 2020, alleging that those opposing him conspired to force him out of his role after he tried to push for serious department changes. A federal judge dismissed Humphrey’s lawsuit without prejudice in September 2021.
In June 2020, several members of the Little Rock Fraternal Order of Police approved a no confidence resolution against the police chief. However, the resolution sponsor withdrew the measure after city directors stated they would not support it. In September 2020, three assistant police chiefs and seven captains signed and sent a letter to Little Rock city leaders claiming Humphrey was responsible for a toxic work environment.
The Little Rock Black Police Officers Association defended Humphrey, sending a letter to Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr., in May 2022 showing their support for Humphrey. In the letter, the BPOA stated Humphrey addressed systematic racism in the department, eliminated nepotism and was instrumental to efforts to get officers to wear body cameras. BPOA spokesperson JC White told KATV Humphrey developed a good relationship with the community and had “received a bad hand since he arrived.” In his three years as police chief, Humphrey was able to promote the first African American female in the history of the Little Rock Police Department to assistant chief.
Additionally, though Humphrey was investigated for firing his gun at an armed suspect, who was unharmed, in December 2021, he was not charged because the local prosecuting office’s investigation found he was justified in firing his gun.
According to his CV, Humphrey worked as an adjunct professor focusing on criminal justice and police administration at multiple institutions, including Argosy University, Langston University, Myrtle Beach College and the University of Oklahoma. Humphrey is also a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School Strategies for Building and Leading Diverse Organizations and the Army War College Annual National Security Seminar.