Paragould police patrols come under fire | Arkansas Blog

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: , , , ,


Favorite

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

Readers also liked…

  • Trump immigration protest at LR: Quick and fierce

    It was not even 24 hours ago that Sophia Said, director of the Interfaith Center; City Director Kathy Webb and others decided to organize a protest today of Donald Trump's executive order that has left people from Muslim countries languishing in airports or unable to come to the US at all — people with visas, green cards,a  post-doc graduate student en route to Harvard, Google employees abroad, families. I got the message today before noon; others didn't find out until it was going on. But however folks found out, they turned out in huge numbers, more than thousand men, women and children, on the grounds of the state Capitol to listen to speakers from all faiths and many countries.
    • Jan 29, 2017
  • Your daily dose of Jason Rapert

    Sen. Jason Rapert really, really didn't like it when a KATV reporter asked him about the hypocrisy of his political arguments.
    • Feb 4, 2017
  • Campus gun bill clears committee

    The so-called compromise amendment that will allow anyone 25 or older with a training certificate carry a concealed weapon on public college campuses was approved in a Senate committee this afternoon.
    • Feb 21, 2017

People who saved…

Slideshows

Most Viewed

  • French Hill carefully vetting crowd for Mike Pence visit

    Mike Pence will appear at a campaign rally for Republican U.S. Rep. French Hill today in Little Rock and the campaign is monitoring carefully who'll be allowed to attend or cover the event. Hill is running a hide-and-seek campaign, making himself available only in safe settings. Maybe 1,200 of the right sort of people will atternd.
  • Marijuana makes Harding University grad a billionaire

    Meet a new Arkansas-native billionaire — Michael Blue, who grew up in Searcy and graduated from Harding University. He owes his wealth to marijuana.
  • Are the Razorbacks out of their league?

    Ouch. The Southeastern Conference football schedule hasn't yet begun and the New York Times offers an article suggesting the Arkansas Razorbacks aren't up to playing in the league.
  • Demonstrators on hand for French Hill rally with Mike Pence

    Demonstrators have been allowed near the front door of the Statehouse Convention Center where carefully screened guests will be enjoying Mike Pence's endorsement of Republican Rep. French Hill. Plenty of security and I think it might be more fun outside.
  • DEA reports 1,200 drug arrests in statewide operation

    The Drug Enforcement Administration announced today that state and federal agencies had arrested 1,260 people since July in Operation Task Force Arkansas, a statewide push to catch violent drug traffickers.

Most Recent Comments

 

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation