UPDATED: Backlash met plan for officers with AR-15s to patrol Paragould, stopping everyone out walking for their ID
Updated, Jan. 30: According to local news reports, the police department canceled two subsequent town hall meetings to discuss the heavy handed policing plan. Following outrage from Paragould residents, the police cited â€śpublic safety concernsâ€ť to cancel the meetings. Meanwhile, Paragouldâ€™s mayor has reportedly dialed back his rhetoric around the amped up policing proposal and, according to the Arkansas Times, the mayor said patrolling police would not â€śconstantlyâ€ť be carrying assault rifles. Although announced to begin in January, no SWAT patrols have begun in Paragould yet.
Original: Following a rise in violent crime in Paragould, an Arkansas town of around 26,000 residents, the mayor and police chief announced that starting this month police in SWAT gear carrying AR-15s would patrol the streets.
â€śIf youâ€™re out walking, weâ€™re going to stop you, ask why youâ€™re out walking, and check for your ID,â€ť police chief Todd Stovall told a December town hall meeting. As if to render the implementation of a visible police state more palatable, Stovall assured residents that police stops would not be based on any profiling: â€śWeâ€™re going to do it to everybody,â€ť he said.
Stovall also told residents he had not consulted an attorney before instituting the plan. HuffPoâ€™s Radley Balko noted that Paragould is not the first town to bring in such measures:
Using SWAT teams for routine patrols isnâ€™t uncommon. 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. â€śItâ€™s a war,â€ť one SWAT officer told Christian Parenti in a a report for The Nation (not available online). Another said, â€śIf youâ€™re 21, male, living in one of these neighborhoods, and youâ€™re not in our computer, then thereâ€™s something definitely wrong.â€ť
Balko picked up on interesting detail in Stovallâ€™s comments. The police chief said, â€śThis fear is whatâ€™s given us the reason to do this. Once I have stats and people saying theyâ€™re scared, we can do this.â€ť As Balko pointed out, although there was an uptick in violent crime in Paragould, â€śfearâ€ť of crime was used as the pretext to implement martial law â€” based on such troubling reasoning, there is never not fear in U.S. towns today and so there is never not a pretext to introduce patrolling SWAT teams.
If they enforced bank regulations like they do park rules, we wouldn't be in this mess