Martial Law in Paragould? SWAT with AR15's Patroling.
Posted in the Paragould Forum
#1 Dec 16, 2012
In response to a recent increase in crime, Paragould Mayor Mike Gaskill and Police Chief Todd Stovall offered residents at a town hall meeting Thursday night at West View Baptist Church what could be considered an extreme solution — armed officers patrolling the streets on foot.
Stovall told the group of almost 40 residents that beginning in 2013, the department would deploy a new street crimes unit to high crime areas on foot to take back the streets.
"[Police are] going to be in SWAT gear and have AR-15s around their neck," 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."
Gaskill backed Stovall's proposed actions during Thursday's town hall.
"They may not be doing anything but walking their dog," he said. "But they're going to have to prove it."
Stovall said the foot patrols would begin on the east side of town and would eventually snake into the Pecan Grove area.
He said the police would follow where crime was taking place in order to snuff it out.
Normally, police would not stop individuals for simply walking on the street, but Stovall said the level of crime in certain areas and concerns from residents gave his officers the right to institute the actions announced at the town hall event.
"This fear is what's given us the reason to do this. Once I have stats and people saying they're scared, we can do this," he said. "It allows us to do what we're fixing to do."
Stovall further elaborated on the stop-and-ID policy Friday morning, claiming the city's crime statistics alone met the threshold of reasonable suspicion required to lawfully accost a citizen.
"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."
Stovall said he did not consult an attorney before announcing his plans to combat crime. He even remained undaunted when comparing his proposed tactics with martial law, explaining that "I don't know that there's ever been a difference" between his proposals and martial law.
Stovall said task force members would not even be required to be looking for a specific suspect before stopping citizens on the street.
"Anyone that's out walking, because of the crime and the fear factor,[could be stopped]," he said.
#2 Dec 16, 2012
Should an individual not produce identification, Stovall said his officers would not back down. Individuals who do not produce identification when asked could be charged with obstructing a governmental operation, according to Stovall.
"I'm hoping we don't run across [any] of that," Stovall said. "Will there be people who buck us? There may be. But we have a right to be doing what we're doing. We have a zero-tolerance. We are prepared to throw your hind-end in jail, OK? We're not going to take a lot of flack."
On Friday, however, Gaskill retreated from the severity of the plan he and Stovall offered to citizens at the town hall.
"The only people who are really going to be impacted by this are mostly the unknowns," Gaskill said.
The mayor said the street crimes unit would not be positioned to cause problems for law-abiding residents.
"We just want to make a presence out there for the criminal element," Gaskill said. "And we want to make a presence for the people who are concerned and give them a sense of security."
Gaskill added he was not concerned about potential profiling by the police department. Even though Stovall had said police would enter neighborhoods with the highest crime rates, Gaskill said officers would respond to where they received calls.
"It would be based on where people have called us and said things are going on in our neighborhood," he said.
Gaskill made clear Friday that when residents called about problems in their neighborhoods, they needed to provide police with information.
"Give us a description — what kinds of clothes they're wearing,[license] plate number. We'll be looking for descriptions," he said.
City Attorney Allen Warmath echoed Gaskill's statements on Friday.
"It is my understanding that if they get a call in an area and they go to an area because of some calls of suspicious activity, they'll make contact," Warmath said.
Warmath said while he had not directly spoken to Stovall, he understood that the street crimes unit would actually be less confrontational than Stovall let on.
"If they have a call that there's some problems in the area, they're at least going to talk to you," he said. "Maybe that person walking their dog saw something. It gives them some information and some leads to find out what's going on."
As for having IDs, he said citizens wouldn't have to worry about that, either. He said the police would not arrest residents solely for failing to produce identification when asked.
Attorney Curtis Hitt of the law firm of Hitt and Kidd said officers were allowed to engage in "consensual questioning" with citizens, though if any circumstances arose that led to an arrest, a judge would have to look at the "totality" of those circumstances.
"The bottom line is it would have to be determined on a case by case basis," he said.
Hitt said he had a high regard for Stovall and the Paragould police. He said he felt their intentions were in the right place, which he believed was preventing crime and making Paragould a safe community.
"At the same time, as an attorney who reads police reports and keeps up with the law, I certainly will be careful of that for any of my clients."
#3 Dec 16, 2012
"We're going to do it to everybody." Stovall said.
"They may not be doing anything but walking their dog," He said. "But they're going to have to prove it."
#4 Dec 16, 2012
Stovall's bravado will fall like a rock when he gets kicked in the balls by being named personally liable in a Title 42 Section 1983 civil rights lawsuit filed by someone who was arrested at Stovall's direction only because he refused to produce ID while lawfully walking down a public right of way.
We have something called liberty in this country Stovall. It is secured by the Constitution, something you swore to honor and uphold.
Take some good advice, have the City Attorney familiarize himself with 42 USC 1983, then share what he finds with you and the other members of city government. You're going to need it.
#5 Dec 16, 2012
I hope they clean up a lot of the trash on the streets of Paragould. They can stop me and since I'm not guilty of any crimes I have nothing to fear, while the druggies and thieves are getting all bent out of shape.
#6 Dec 16, 2012
Great post. I think this is going to be brought to PD and city attorneys office tomorrow morning and they will recant their plans.
#7 Dec 16, 2012
Who will watch over the watchmen.
#8 Dec 16, 2012
I say go PPD!!! Clean up the east side and all parts of the town that needs it. Paragould used to be a decent town.
#10 Dec 16, 2012
It will get worse, as Paragould grows, so will the crime rate.
#11 Dec 16, 2012
This is absolutely insane. FIrst of all, why were they not holding the town hall meetings in the areas they want to "patrol", say the East Side of town? I mean Westview Baptist is where Gaskil goes to church, and of course the people that go to his church will support him because they only want to target the East Side of town. Hmmm, what happens when they decide to move West or South?
Second, what statistical evidence gives him the right to suspend the Constitution? Is there a Federal or State Law that supports this? I believe the Supreme Court has addressed this matter before, since it would be no different than establishing roadblocks and checkpoints and keeping tabs on citizens coming and going in an area. I'm pretty sure the results were MILLIONS of dollars lost in the ensuing legal battles and liability lawsuits. If there is such an alarming increase in crime, why have they not solved the cases? I'm pretty sure a policy like this just points out the ineptness of what's going on.
Third, why not address the issue at hand? We need more CID officers to work the cases. There's a disconnect somewhere, because these are the same people committing the crimes. The policy of "we'll eventually catch them" isn't working because you're not catching them! Do what your supposed to do, investigate the crimes, bring in good evidence and valid arrests so the prosecuting attorneys can get the convictions.
Fourth, has anyone talked to Scott Ellington at the Prosecuting Attorney's office? He might have a different view, since he is also sworn to uphold the Constitution and only prosecute valid cases. Of course, he's also an elected official and if enough citizens get harassed for doing nothing wrong, he might lose the next election.
The biggest thing is this. FORCE the mayor and police chief to work with the city council and the residents of the areas. Make them come up with peaceful solutions, such as arresting actual criminals, not citizens walking their dog. Here's another idea... quit targeting people not breaking the law. Increase patrols in the areas. Instead of staking out the bars and looking for the easy DWI arrest, why not actually patrol the areas. Put a police substation in the area and have officers go around to build up a good relationship with the citizens so they feel comfortable reporting crimes.
#12 Dec 17, 2012
You are a really good sheep. Baaaaaah fleece me anytime. Baaaaaah You should go read 1984 dumbass!
#13 Dec 17, 2012
You are a REALLY GOOD sheep. "I be good sheep so I don't need to worry. Baaaaaah. Fleece me anytime because I be good sheep." Go read 1984 dumbass!
#14 Dec 17, 2012
There have been meetings advertised in the paper as well as on here in four areas of town that were open two everyone.
#15 Dec 17, 2012
You are correct. That's why we need to get a handle or it will be another little Memphis. I lived in Memphis and was afraid to go out after dark and I lived in East Memphis which is one of the better areas. Lets nip it in the bud before it spreads and grows.
#16 Dec 17, 2012
OK. Did they bother telling anyone that they'd be considering or endorsing creating a paramilitary force and establishing Martial Law? Sounds to me like we have a bunch of lazy a$$ officers that expect the criminals to come to them, or an idiot Chief that thinks just because you have officers with weapons walking around searching and interrogating everyone, they'll find the criminals. It doesn't work. It hasn't worked for the military, and they can actually break down doors to interrogate people.
I notice the article doesn't say what shifts they're gonna work. I guess the night shift will need night vision goggles and/or surveillance equipment? Of course, criminals don't have cars, so they'll be easy to catch, right (sarcasm)!
There is a much simpler solution. Force them to do the job they already have. Hire more CID, and start searching for and serving warrants on the criminals. Sorry to say, but everyone in town knows the night shift eats for 2 hours at Huddle house. What's the average response time to a call placed on the East side of town, versus one in other areas?
If anything, this is an admission that those in charge are incompetent to do their job as leaders and we need new leadership.
#17 Dec 17, 2012
You know so much why haven't you gone to the town meetings and told them how it should be done?
#18 Dec 17, 2012
well, i just found out they were trying to establish martial law. But you can bet your a$$ and I'll be making some phone calls, contacting people like the prosecuting attorneys office as well as state or federal officials. When are the next town hall meetings?
I don't disagree that something doesn't need to be done. But this is entirely the wrong plan and wrong idea. But if the newspaper (the Daily Press) covered the story, why didn't THEY do THEIR job and call the prosecutor's office. I"m sure Scott Ellington would like to know about it as well.
#19 Dec 17, 2012
the Streets should be patroled more, however harrasing people is another thing. the police can make terry stops for a reason but must have Prob. Cause. the way i look at it is ur not doing anything wrong and an officer ask for id or who you are tell them and then go on. you as a citzen have a right to walk/drive down the streets any time you want. and dont have to answer where you are going or what you are doing. its all about respect for each other. if the officer is nice i will tell him or her what im doing or going. but if he or she is a butt then i will tell them here is my id. im crusing town and leave it at that. but remember be respectful at all times. i hope ppd cleans up the town. look at the below video
#20 Dec 17, 2012
from earlier post..."This is absolutely insane. FIrst of all, why were they not holding the town hall meetings in the areas they want to "patrol", say the East Side of town? I mean Westview Baptist is where Gaskil goes to church, and of course the people that go to his church will support him because they only want to target the East Side of town."
The first meeting was held on the east side of town last Tuesday night. I'd guess about 30-40 residents attended. No one had a problem with what was discussed. Questions were asked and answered.People asked about forming neighborhood watches,one man asked about volunteering to help officers, one young man spoke about being afraid to walk home from the basketball courts at Labor, one man (and a black man at that)asked how to speak to his four sons about feeling threatned. Inform yourself before you speak.
#21 Dec 17, 2012
THIS IS THE REASON THE FOUNDING FATHER'S GAVE US THE SECOND AMMENDMENT! IT IS CALLED TYRRANY!
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