Monday, December 17, 2012

You can't do that, Paragould.

Oh, hell no.

Apparently, Paragould, Arkansas is a hotbed of criminal activity. The mayor and police chief are sick of it. So they're fixin' to do something about it. And they won't let no pesky Constitution or American way of life get in the way! They're setting up a street crimes unit. Who will patrol the streets on foot. In SWAT gear. With AR-15s.

Says the petty tyrant Police Chief, "If you're out walking, we're going to stop you, ask why you're out walking, check for your ID." Screw that basic American right to walk the streets freely. Forget about that basic American right not to be required to show your papers. Oh, yeah, and who gives a hoot about that basic American right not to be detained (aka seized) by the police without a warrant.

Really, Paragould, you seem like a nice town, so I'd really like to help you out, save you the cost and headache of a lawsuit or 20. You can't do this. You really can't. You can't demand to see ID from everyone who is walking down the street. The fundamental justification for being able to use DUI check lanes for cars depends upon the fact that you're driving a car and have theoretically agreed to certain restrictions by accepting a license from the state. According to the courts, you don't have a fundamental right to drive. But know what all citizens do have a fundamental right to do? Walk freely about. It's a true story; look it up. So the car checkpoint idea of just stopping everyone won't work here.

The Police Chief is claiming that the city's crime statistics give him reasonable suspicion to stop anyone and everyone. Umm, ok. And then he claims that anyone who does not produce an ID could be charged with obstructing a governmental operation. He hopes he won't run into that, though. He wouldn't want anyone to "buck" them. Oh my. This is where the city really needs to reign the Police Chief in and right quick or they will be facing a lot of potential lawsuits. Because no, it is not a crime for an American citizen to walk around town without carrying identification. The poor City Attorney has a few quotes in at the end of the article, where he promises that citizens actually won't be arrested for not having ID. He knows such an arrest would be bogus and would open up the city to all kinds of problems. Doesn't seem like he has all that much sway over the Police Chief, though.

What amazes me most is that there are some comments on this local paper's website in support of this plan. Most of the comments are spot on, decrying these gestapo tactics as the unconstitutional disaster they will be if implemented. The "I'm sick of crime and I have nothing to hide" crowd, though, is present and they are not appalled. Which, of course, I find appalling. Because I don't have anything to hide, either, but for crying out loud, I don't want to be approached by a guy in a flak jacket carrying a scary-looking rifle while I'm just out walking my dog. Under the laws of this land, I'm supposed to be free to walk away from that guy if he tries to walk up to me on the street and ask me questions. Just because he wants to know where I'm going doesn't mean he has a right to know and it sure as hell doesn't mean I have to tell him. One doesn't have to have something to hide to object to explaining one's comings and goings to the police.

I think I will now have to bookmark the Paragould Daily Press because I want to watch how this all unfolds. I sure hope lawyers from the ACLU are doing the same.

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