February 6, 2013 Leave a comment
The passing of former Little Rock Chief of Police Sonny Simpson brings up a host of old names and ancient grudges. It is always inappropriate to voice harsh opinions of an individual prior to his burial and that rule will not be violated here.
My experience with the Chief was, unfortunately, not altogether positive. I particularly recall incidents involving the police shooting of a man outside a junk yard in the east part of town and the needless harassment of passengers who were dropped inside the Little Rock airport after the flight encountered mechanical difficulties. There were plenty of questionable occurrences during the Simpson years. One fateful morning, I got on the radio with my pal, Mayor Tom Prince, and coaxed Prince into calling for Simpson’s resignation. It was a notable error of judgment and probably resulted in Simpson hanging around for a few extra years past his intended retirement.
But I hinted that this commentary would be more positive and that is my intention. Simpson needs to be placed in a larger context. Compare Sonny to Gayle Weeks and there is no doubt that Chief Simpson deserves an even-handed treatment by professional rememberers. Simpson was a bit too close to George Wimberly, whose reputation is beyond redemption. Sonny Simpson was a force for racial equality and a more professional police department. That would only be achieved with the arrival of Lou Caudell, an outsider from Dallas, Texas to take the department’s helm.
In the longer view of history, Sonny Simpson deserves a passing grade.