I informed you in December about the mayor of Paragould, Arkansas and his police chief determining to violate the Constitution and send armed SWAT teams in full fear to stop, detain and question people without any probable cause. Well, now a letter has been drafted to call Mayor Mike Gaskill, as well as, Police Chief Todd Stovall to honor their oath of office and desist from implementing this type of Gestapo tactics on their citizens.
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Mayor Mike Gaskill
P.O. Box 1175
Paragould, AR 72451-1175
cc: Chief of Police Todd Stovall
Arkansas Attorney General McDaniels
Mayor Mike Gaskill:
Your recently proposed actions will violate your Oath of Office to defend the U.S. Constitution and the Constitution of the State of Arkansas, by violating the following specific provisions of the U.S. and Arkansas Constitutions:
U.S. Constitution, Amendment I
U.S. Constitution, Amendment IV
Arkansas Declaration of Rights, Article II, Section 4
Arkansas Declaration of Rights, Article II, Section 15
Arkansas Declaration of Rights, Article II, Section 21
Arkansas Declaration of Rights, Article II, Section 29
According to the Paragould Daily Press, the Paragould, Arkansas Police Department will be deploying a new “street crimes unit” to patrol on foot and “clean up the streets” in high-crime areas. This unit would be deployed in full “SWAT gear” and carry “AR-15’s around their neck.”
While patrolling a neighborhood with this type of military-grade weaponry is itself an extreme measure, Police Chief Todd Stovall’s next statement regarding the unit’s duties goes beyond an extreme measure and is blatantly in violation of the U.S. Constitution and the Arkansas Constitution Article II Section 15, among others.
Police Chief Stovall stated:
“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.”
It is apparent by these statements that the special “street crimes unit” fully intends to search and check the ID of any person, whether or not there is probable cause or even a reasonable suspicion that the person is engaged in crime or is a witness to a particular crime. In fact, Chief Stovall confirmed that members of the task force would not be required to be looking for a specific suspect.
“Anyone that’s out walking, because of the crime and the fear factor, [could be stopped],” he said.
Individuals who do not produce identification when asked could be charged with obstructing a governmental operation, according to Stovall.
In fact, even if a person refused to offer identification, your officers would not back down:
“I’m hoping we don’t run across [any] of that,” stated Police Chief Stovall. “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.”
Police on the streets demanding “Show me your papers, please” of anyone and everyone is something that happens in a dictatorship like Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, or Communist China – not in America. In fact, one of the causes of the American Revolution was the use of “general warrants” known as Writs of Assistance which empowered British customs agents to search anyone, anywhere, and anytime they wanted, without a showing of probable cause that a particular person, place, or thing was involved in a crime. And it was to prevent a recurrence of such abuse that our Fourth Amendment was written.
After taking a lot of public flak, and rightfully so, the Paragould “Friendly City” Police Department issued a press release attempting to explain its proposed actions entitled “Armed Patrol” Clarifications, which thoroughly explains the purpose of this “street crimes unit,” and provides more specifics on how the program will be administered.
This clarification confirms that the concerns about this program are justified and accurate. Far from reassuring the public that the constitutional protection of citizens’ rights shall be respected, this release specifically admits three things that are in violation of those rights:
a) The Paragould Police Department will be asking anyone and everyone out walking, for identification, without probable cause or even reasonable suspicion that that particular person is engaged in a crime;
b) This “street crimes unit” will be questioning any person outside between the hours of 11pm and 5am, and
c) The unit will record any and all contact with persons encountered between 11pm and 5am.
Finally, this press release requests more citizen participation. “Our hope is for you to attend one of the remaining two meetings this week to hear our plans and so that we may get your input.”
That would be a step in the right direction.
However, in a press release titled “Cancellation of Town Hall Meetings,” the Paragould Police Department decided to discontinue holding town meetings on the new unit:
“In the interest of public safety, we have elected to cancel the remaining Town Hall Meetings.”
It then goes on to state “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.”
First of all, your primary duty is to defend the U.S. Constitution and the Constitution of the State of Arkansas, as you swore to do when you assumed office. In addition, your police department appears to be attempting to avoid the lens of public scrutiny by hiding behind the excuse of public safety, which is ironic, given that your rationale for violating the people’s rights, which has caused so much concern in the first place, is also public safety.
The Constitution, and in particular, the Bill of Rights, strikes the proper balance between liberty and safety. It is your oath sworn duty to abide by it, not rewrite it.
If this “street crimes unit” is put into effect with the currently proposed powers, and takes the actions you have planned, you, Police Chief Stovall, and any officer in that unit will have violated their respective Oaths of Office begging the question of their fitness to serve. These powers are in direct violation of several provisions of the U.S. Constitution, including the 4th Amendment, and Arkansas Declaration of Rights which, according to Section 29, “shall forever remain inviolate.”
Paragould, Arkansas may have a serious crime problem. If so, many measures can be taken to reduce that crime without violating Constitutionally protected rights. In fact, we support officers walking the beat as they used to, and getting to know everyone in the neighborhood, just as friendly officers did in the past, but in a way that respects their rights and treats them like citizens, not subjects, and certainly not by treating everyone like a criminal suspect. What Chief Stovall needs to do is win the hearts and minds of the people in those crime-ridden areas and see them as allies, not suspects. This type of rhetoric and unconstitutional tactics will not win cooperation of the citizens in those areas, who are your best asset in securing the public safety.
Can the taxpayers of Paragould afford the lawsuits that Chief Stovall has opened you, himself and the city of Paragould up to with this plan?
The residents of the “Friendly City” deserve better than this.
National Director, Patriot Coalition
Founder and President of Oath Keepers
Editor, Freedom Outpost
Founder, We Are 1776
Susquehanna Valley Liberty Alliance
Ed Quiggle, Jr.
Pennsylvania State Constable