Sometimes a news story comes along that leaves me damn near speechless. This is one of those times. A little background first:
Paragould (official motto: “A City as Unique as Its Name!”) is a small town in the northeastern corner of Arkansas. With 22,000 people living there, Paragould’s population is a little smaller than Windsor’s. Apparently, though, Paragould’s population is a heck of a lot more unruly than Windsor’s – either that, or Mayor Mike Gaskill and Police Chief Todd Stovall have just lost their minds.
“[Police are] going to be in SWAT gear and have AR-15s around their neck.”
“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.”
“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.”
Photo by tome213
…and here’s Mayor Gaskill chiming in as the voice of reason:
“We’re going to do it to everybody… They may not be doing anything but walking their dog, but they’re going to have to prove it.”
In other words, the streets of Paragould are now patrolled by police in SWAT gear, toting assault rifles and demanding papers from everyone they meet. Better yet, if someone won’t produce identification, Stovall said that “officers would not back down” and that “individuals who do not produce identification when asked could be charged with obstructing a governmental operation.”
There are some famously dangerous places in America – Compton, California; Detroit, Michigan; Camden, New Jersey – that don’t need to be patrolled by heavily armed riot police. Paragould must be downright terrifying! Just how bad is the violent crime rate there, anyway?
Overall, not very bad. The overall violent crime rate in Paragould is below the national average. Except for forcible rape, every category of violent crime in Paragould is below the national average! Unless those rapes are being committed on sidewalks or lawns, it’s hard to see how demanding identification papers from dog walkers will help. Paragould is safer than Santa Rosa, but I’ve yet to hear anyone ask Mayor Bartley to have the SRPD to start shaking down 4th Street shoppers for ID at gun point. I hope I never do, because I don’t want to live here or here or here.
So how does Chief Stovall justify what amounts to declaring martial law? Fear. “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.” Well, that scares me, and that’s why I do what I do. Chief Stovall and Mayor Gaskill and their ilk won’t stop themselves; tyrants never do. That’s why I stand up for people and protect their rights.
If you don’t like being treated like a criminal, call.