For 2013, Paragould Police proposed to have officers with rifles in high crime areas to ask people for identification, where they live and their purpose in the area.
Paragould Police since issued a release canceling the town hall meetings scheduled to discuss the proposition, and on Friday, Chief of Police Todd Stovall issued the following news release:
Over the last several days, my comments regarding the Paragould Police Department's efforts to combat crime and ensure public safety have been criticized. In light of these criticisms, clarification of police procedure is needed. I would also like to reassure the citizens of Paragould that the police department is committed to combating crime and ensuring public safety without violating citizens' constitutional rights. These commitments always drive the policy and practice of the Paragould police department.
With specific regard to the current operations of the police department, the department has long had a proactive police philosophy dedicated to managing problems before they become unmanageable. Consistent with this philosophy and my earlier comments, the police department will soon make more officers available in the east side of town. These officers will be there to combat the increasingly high crime rate, which will result in greater public safety. Necessarily, the increase in officers will increase the number of police-citizen encounters; these encounters, however, will be done within the bounds of the Constitution.
As an example, when suspicious activity is afoot and there is reasonable suspicion to believe criminal activity is happening, officers will make contact with the individuals involved to combat any potential criminal activity. In cases where there is probable cause to believe a crime has already occurred, officers will arrest those who committed the crime - there will be zero-tolerance for criminals. It is in these instances alone in which officers will ask an individual to identify him/herself. Please let me reassure all citizens, these actions, as well as any other action taken by Paragould police officers, will be taken with the Constitutional rights of all citizens in mind.
As always, this department will operate with the highest respect for the citizens of our community while ensuring their safety. As has always been the case, actions taken by officers that violate individuals' constitutional rights will not be tolerated and will be dealt with accordingly.
Todd Stovall, Chief of Police