Arkansas town’s bid to lift speed-trap sanctions denied
CONWAY, Ark. (AP) — A prosecutor said he won’t lift speed-trap sanctions against a small town in north-central Arkansas because of what he calls a level of past abuse of police power.
Prosecuting Attorney Luke Ferguson’s decision Wednesday means the sanctions for Damascus will remain in effect through the end of the year, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported .
Former Prosecuting Attorney Cody Hiland ordered the sanctions last year after he found the town was operating an illegal speed trap. The sanctions prohibit Damascus police from patrolling U.S. Highway 65 or Arkansas 124, both of which run through the town of fewer than 400 residents. The Arkansas State Police and sheriff’s offices in Faulkner and Van Buren counties currently handle traffic patrols in the area.
City Attorney Beau Wilcox recently requested Ferguson lift the sanctions, saying Damascus would agree to some restrictions. But the prosecutor stood by Hiland’s sanctions, basing his decision partly on what he calls an abuse of police power.
“With a population of only 382, Damascus employed up to eight full-time and part-time police officers,” Ferguson wrote to Wilcox. “To compare two other small cities also located on Highway 65 ... Clinton has a population of 2,602 and employs seven full-time and two part-time officers, and Marshall has a population of 1,355 and employs three full-time officers and one part-time officer.”
Ferguson also said the Damascus mayor and City Council showed an inability to supervise the former police chief, who was fired last year and not replaced.
“Because the city’s proposal (to lift sanctions) relies on the mayor’s ability to manage the affairs of the police, my concerns remain that the abuse of police power will continue without a chief and even with a reduced number of officers,” Ferguson said.
Wilcox said the sanctions prevent Damascus police from stopping those legitimately violating traffic laws.
“The city and its police department are not perfect but have been committed to keeping Highway 65 and all other city streets safe for many years,” he said. “These ongoing sanctions have hamstrung those efforts greatly and stigmatized the city unfairly.”
Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com