Civil Liberties

Arkansas Police Chief Proposes Random ID Checks By Armed Patrols

Militarizing police work, chapter DXXIII.

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The police chief in Paragould, Arkansas, has a plan:

Just a barbed wire fence between us.

[Chief Todd] 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."

[Mayor Mike] 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."…

Where does this road go?

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.

Radley Balko offers some context here. "Using SWAT teams for routine patrols isn't uncommon," he writes. "Fresno did this for several years in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The city sent its Violent Crimes Suppression Unit into poorer neighborhoods and stopped, confronted, questioned, and searched nearly everyone they encountered….A 1999 report in the Boston Globe found similar units patrolling the streets of Indianapolis and San Francisco, which the reporter noted gave the communities under siege 'all the ambiance of the West Bank.'"