Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Paragould police patrols come under fire

Posted By on Tue, Dec 18, 2012 at 3:43 PM

David Koon reports:

Rita Sklar, executive director of ACLU-Arkansas, said that aspects of Paragould Police Chief Todd Stovall's plan to have officers dressed in SWAT gear and armed with AR-15 assault rifles demanding ID from citizens in high crime areas shows that he has "zero understanding of Constitutional rights, period." Meanwhile, the Paragould PD issued a statement yesterday cancelling further town hall meetings on the proposal, citing "public safety" concerns after a growing backlash about the proposal.

Stovall announced his new "Street Crimes Unit" plan at a Dec. 13 town hall meeting, telling the citizens gathered that the armed patrols would start in 2013, with officers stopping citizens, demanding ID and charging those who refused to answer questions with obstruction of governmental operations. On Sunday, with the Internet beginning to take note of his idea, Stovall seemed to dial back his tone, issuing a statement via the Paragould PD website titled "Armed Patrol Clarifications" which said that officers wouldn't harass citizens, and would not be carrying AR-15 assault rifles constantly while on foot patrol because it would be "impractical."

"Many citizens, through various media outlets, have expressed a concern about the police 'violating rights' or 'violating the Constitution,' " the statement said. "We have to abide by the same rules, regulations, and laws that our citizens do. We are not out to violate anyone's rights. Once we have an area that shows a high crime rate or a high call volume, it is our duty and obligation to find out why this is occurring and what we can do to prevent the trend from continuing."

On Monday, the Paragould PD announced via their website that additional town hall meetings on the subject scheduled for Dec. 18 and Dec. 20 had been cancelled "in the interest of public safety." The notice said that the department had corresponded with both residents and non-residents about the proposal. "Some of the correspondence has caused us great pause in whether or not the meetings should remain as scheduled," the announcement read. "As the police department, it is our duty to protect ALL residents and non-residents from harm. We feel that with the strong feelings on both sides of the Street Crimes Unit issue, a safe and productive meeting would not be the probable outcome."

Sklar said ACLU-Arkansas is looking into the case, and will welcome complaints from anyone who believes they were unjustly detained by police in Paragould if the program ever goes into effect. .

Asked about Stovall's contention that "statistical reasons" give him probable cause to detain a citizen, Sklar laughed aloud. "Why don't you just put in: 'HA!' " Sklar joked. "That's ridiculous. They don't seem to understand the law in that area very well." She said that in order to detain a person, police need "reasonable suspicion" that the person has committed a crime, a criteria that simply being on the street in a a high-crime area doesn't meet.

Sklar noted one case that came before the Supreme Court in which a suspect was detained by police after being seen standing in a high crime area, wearing a hooded sweatshirt, clutching something in his pocket and staring intently and nervously at a passing police cruiser. The SCOTUS still found that arrest unconstitutional. "All of that together still didn't constitute reasonable suspicion to stop that person," Sklar said, "much less being in a high crime area."

As to people being charged with obstructing governmental operations if they don't answer police questions, Sklar said that while police have the right to stop a citizen and ask questions, the person doesn't have to answer and the police can't make the person feel as if they aren't free to leave at any time unless they have the reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed.

Sklar added that it is a "wonderful thing" that the case has generated a lot of interest from the press, "and a lot of chatter on the Internet by citizens, which is also a wonderful thing — to know that people care about their rights."

Tags: , , , ,

From the ArkTimes store

Favorite

Speaking of...

Comments (13)

Showing 1-13 of 13

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-13 of 13

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • Executionpalooza

    Appearances count. I was struck by a single sentence over the weekend in a full page of coverage in The New York Times devoted to the killing spree in Arkansas, beginning with a front-page account of the recent flurry of legal filings on pending executions and continuing inside with an interview with Damien Echols, the former death row inmate.
    • Apr 20, 2017
  • Death Row inmates argue to keep stay of execution in place; urge 8th Circuit not to 'rush' analysis

    Early this morning, attorneys for nine Death Row inmates, filed an argument with the 8th United States Court of Appeals contesting the state's effort to override Judge Kristine Baker's order Saturday that halted executions scheduled this month.
    • Apr 17, 2017
  • Federal judge denies execution stay for Don Davis but larger stay continues

    Don Davis, who's been moved to the killing facility of the state prison for killing tonight at 7 p.m. if a stay of execution is lifted in another federal suit, sought a stay in another federal court Sunday, but the request was denied.
    • Apr 17, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

People who saved…

Most Shared

  • Executionpalooza

    Appearances count. I was struck by a single sentence over the weekend in a full page of coverage in The New York Times devoted to the killing spree in Arkansas, beginning with a front-page account of the recent flurry of legal filings on pending executions and continuing inside with an interview with Damien Echols, the former death row inmate.
  • Art bull

    "God, I hate art," my late friend The Doctor used to say.
  • Not justice

    The strongest, most enduring calls for the death penalty come from those who feel deeply the moral righteousness of "eye-for-an-eye" justice, or retribution. From the depths of pain and the heights of moral offense comes the cry, "The suffering you cause is the suffering you shall receive!" From the true moral insight that punishment should fit the crime, cool logic concludes, "Killers should be killed." Yet I say: retribution yes; death penalty no.
  • Judge Griffen writes about morality, Christian values and executions

    Pulaski County Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen, who blogs at Justice is a verb!, sends along a new post this morning.
  • The Ledell Lee execution thread

    Arkansas Times contributor Jacob Rosenberg is at the Cummins Unit in Grady filing dispatches tonight in advance of the expected execution of Ledell Lee, who was sentenced to death for the Feb. 9, 1993, murder of Debra Reese, 26, who was beaten to death in the bedroom of her home in Jacksonville.

Visit Arkansas

Haralson, Smith named to Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame

Haralson, Smith named to Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame

Chuck Haralson and Ken Smith were inducted into the Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame during the 43rd annual Governor’s Conference on Tourism

Most Viewed

  • Lee's lawyer writes about executed man's last hours

    Lee Short, the lawyer for Ledell Lee, the man Arkansas put to death just before midnight last night, posted on Facebook the following letter of thanks for personal support and a bit about Lee's last hours, distributing his possessions and talking to family.
  • State spends $30,000 drug testing TANF recipients for drugs, nabs 2.

    Think Progress reported yesterday that 13 states spent a total of $1.3 million to perform 2,826 drug tests on persons seeking funds from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. Of those nearly 3,000 people required to pee in a cup to get assistance for their families, 369 tested positive.

Most Recent Comments

Blogroll

Slideshows

 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation