Mayor Mike Gaskill and Police Chief Todd Stovall of Paragould, Arkansas announced plans to patrol the streets with AR-15 rifles and stop pedestrians randomly for IDs and questioning.
According to the Paragould Daily Press:
'[Police are] going to be in SWAT gear and have AR-15s around their neck,' [Police Chief Todd] Stovall said. 'If you're out walking, we're going to stop you, ask why you're out walking, check for your ID.'
Stovall said while some people may be offended by the actions of his department, they should not be.
'We're going to do it to everybody,' he said. 'Criminals don't like being talked to.'Does this sound like a violation of your 4th Amendment right to privacy without probable cause? Well, they claim that rising crime statistics provide all of the probable cause they need to stop any and every person who may be walking in the street.
'To ask you for your ID, I have to have a reason,' he said. 'Well, I've got statistical reasons that say I've got a lot of crime right now, which gives me probable cause to ask what you're doing out. Then when I add that people are scared...then that gives us even more [reason] to ask why are you here and what are you doing in this area.'
Understandably this type of "your papers, please" policy has drawn fire from many in the community causing the Paragould Police Department to go into damage control, but not to change their plans.
Paragould Police issued an official statement in an attempt to justify patrolling neighborhoods with machine guns and infringing on the privacy rights of citizens.
The core of the statement is as follows (confirmation of the chief's statements are in bold):
Once an area has been identified as a high crime neighborhood, the select group of officers will saturate the area in an attempt to curb the criminal behavior that is plaguing that particular neighborhood. Officers will accomplish this in a variety of different methods. Officers will be working to identify residents in the affected area so that we can better serve our affected neighborhoods. Most often, this identification process will be nothing more than making contact with a subject, handing them a business card, and asking if they live in the area and if there's anything we can do for them. During hours in which crime seems to be more prevalent (i.e. between the hours of 11pm and 5 am), our process will become more stringent. We will be asking for picture identification. We will be ascertaining where the subject lives and what they are doing in the area. We will be keeping a record of those we contact....
Another issue that seems to be of concern is the mention of Street Crimes Unit officers carrying AR-15 rifles with them during these patrols. To give a little background information, several of our patrol officers already carry AR-15 rifles in their patrol vehicles. The AR-15 and police work is nothing new. Our Street Crimes Unit will not be wearing them constantly. That would be impractical. As we have stated in our meetings, our main purpose of mentioning this was to prepare our residents in the event that they saw an officer armed with one. When our officers deploy into areas where there is the potential for contacting several subjects in a high-crime area, that is when the potential deployment of AR-15's will occur.Some drastic measures may be needed to tame high-crime areas, but setting a precedent to violate personal rights will never end well for innocent citizens. Authorities tend to take a mile when you give them an inch. Be careful citizens of Paragould what you're willing to give up to supposedly reduce crime.
Many citizens, through various media outlets, have expressed a concern about the police 'violating rights' or 'violating the Constitution'. 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. Therefore, identifying subjects in those problem areas help us to solve crimes, and hopefully to prevent future crimes.
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