"Let me see your papers!" This will be the phrase many in Paragould, Arkansas will be hearing in the coming days as Paragould Mayor Mike Gaskill and Police Chief Todd Stovall told residents on Thursday evening that due to the rise in crime they are putting forth an extreme solution; police armed in SWAT gear with assault rifles.
Now before I go on. Remember the left's talk all this week about how we don't need 'weapons of war' on the street? I suppose that only applies to law abiding citizens. Clearly they have no problem arming police with these 'weapons of war' and we know criminals possess them, so why should law abiding citizens be kept from them? But I digress.
Look at what Stovall has in store for those in high crime areas in order 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. We're going to do it to everybody. Criminals don't like being talked to."
Yeah and law abiding citizens don't like being asked nosey questions that are none of the police's business if we are not doing anything wrong. Can anyone say Fourth Amendment violation?
According to Stovall, "They may not be doing anything but walking their dog. But they're going to have to prove it."
Wait, what? Someone is walking their dog and they have to prove it to these men? If it isn't apparent, then what can one do? Fine. You show them ID, you answer their questions. I ask you, what does that actually prove? It proves you have an ID and can speak. Other than that, this is nothing more than the slippery slope to a full police state. We are dangerously close to that now.
Paragould Daily Press reports on the reasons given for such measures:
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."
Hold up there just a minute! This is utter BS! Someone in the meeting should have called this police chief out and demanded his resignation after such an assertion. Just because there is high crime does not give him any authority to stop anyone and everyone on the street, ask for their ID and question them. He has no probable cause to detain them individually unless they are doing something wrong!
Let's make it clear that Sovall and his police department are doing nothing but setting themselves up for some major lawsuits. If they are contemplating such Constitutional violations now, what do you think they will be doing to cover their own backsides once they start implementing this stuff?
"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."
Then those people have a right to sue your "hind-end" if you falsely accuse and arrest them. Just be prepared for those consequences Mr. Stovall.
While the Mayor tried to backtrack from the severity of the plan put forth by the Police Chief, there is no doubt that he agrees with it. He attempted to take the sting out of the police chief's word by saying, "The only people who are really going to be impacted by this are mostly the unknowns. We just want to make a presence out there for the criminal element. And we want to make a presence for the people who are concerned and give them a sense of security."
Attorney Curtis Hitt of Hitt and Kidd law firm said that officers may engage in "consensual questioning" with citizens. "The bottom line is it would have to be determined on a case by case basis," he said.
While Hitt said that he has high regard for Stovall and the police department and believes their intentions are in the right place and that was to prevent crime and make Paragould safe, he as said, "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."
As they say, "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions." Blanket stopping and questioning is unconstitutional, no matter what the intention is. If police have probably cause they need to follow the law and according to the law we live under, it is clear what they must do.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
If officers cannot provide these things, then they should not be engaging in this type of activity. If they are, then I ask you, are they breaking the law? If they are breaking it, even if their intentions are good, then what is different between the law officers that breaks the law and the criminal he seeks to deal with?