Former Pine Bluff police officer Danny Walker — a son of Alderwoman Thelma Walker — said at Monday night’s town hall meeting that the city council’s ongoing “bickering” over the residency of Interim Police Chief Jeff Hubanks is “foolish” and opposition toward Hubanks by his mother and her council allies is based solely on racial bias.
Walker, who also previously worked as a Jefferson County sheriff’s deputy, spoke during and after the event at the Pine Bluff Convention Center. Walker said the residency issue wasn’t raised regarding several interim and permanent police chiefs during Carl A. Redus Jr.’s two terms as mayor.
Hubanks was named interim chief on Jan. 1, after Mayor Debe Hollingsworth — on her first day in office — fired former chief Brenda Davis-Jones.
“It’s time for the council to bury the residency issue and move on to other, more important matters,” Walker said. “The fact is that Jeff Hubanks is well-qualified and Brenda Davis-Jones wasn’t. Mayor Hollingsworth was right to dismiss her and hire him. It shouldn’t matter if he lives 11 miles outside the city limits.”
Hubanks, a retired PBPD lieutenant, is a Cleveland County resident. Several council members maintain that he and other city department heads should be required to reside within the city in accordance with an ordinance adopted by the council 2000.
Alderwoman Walker recently joined adermen Glen Brown and George Stepps in seeking nonfeasance charges against Hollingsworth over her hiring of Hubanks, but Prosecuting Attorney S. Kyle Hunter declined to pursue legal action. Hunter instead advised that the council should draft new guidance to alleviate conflicts between the 2000 measure and a relaxed 2002 residency regulation on uniformed police personnel.
“If you’ve noticed, no one has said anything about Chief Hubanks not being qualified,” Danny Walker said after Monday’s event. “That shows that it’s about race and nothing else. This needs to be a shut case. There are more important problems on which to focus than where Chief Hubanks lives. I know him and I know he’s a good man and a good police officer and can be a fine chief. I knew Brenda Davis-Jones, too, and she needed to go.”
Walker added that the city is consistently shrinking in population because many have grown dissatisfied with a lack of positive opportunities. He said if the city’s government can’t achieve harmony on Hubanks’ home address, “Everyone’s going to be gone and we won’t need a police chief.”
Thelma Walker said work responsibilities prevented her attendance at Monday’s meeting. She declined to comment on her son’s remarks beyond saying, “I didn’t know he was speaking tonight. He’s a responsible adult, so he can speak his mind.”
Aldermen Charles Boyd, Bill Brumett, Lloyd Holcomb Jr. and Steven Mays attended Monday’s event. Brown and Stepps were absent, as was Alderman Wayne Easterly. Brown, Stepps and Walker have not attended any of the three town hall meetings since Hollingsworth took office.
Holcomb said no one can be certain of what the future holds for Pine Bluff, but if the council can reach accord and work with the mayor, improvement is guaranteed.
Several citizens spoke. Their topics ranged from alleged police abuse and racial discrimination, bothersome train whistles and drug-related crime to litter, assorted infrastructure and cosmetic woes and council members’ responsibilities as role models to youth.