Thursday, August 21, 2014

Arkansas community reporter resigns after police chief attacks her on social media

UPDATE, Aug. 25: Jonesboro Mayor Harold Perrin on Friday suspended Yates for a month without pay, Yates has to take an as yet determined training course and is required to write Crump a letter of apology, Jessi Turnure reports for Action 5 News in Memphis. Yates had no comment on the decision. (Read more)
Saying she feared for her safety, a community newspaper police beat reporter in Arkansas quit her position after the local police chief attacked her credibility and the newspaper on social media, Max Brantley reports for the Arkansas Times.

Referring to Jonesboro Sun reporter Sunshine Crump, police chief Mike Yates wrote on Facebook: “Wonder if ole Sunshine could pass a drug test. Why yes, she has been arrested before,"  "Pro-dope smoking, law license revoked, left wing liberal, smelly, arrested by police, unscrupulous reporter," “Reminds me of a song . . . ‘ain’t no Sunshine when she’s gone’ etc," and “Dealing with ole Sunshine is like trying to pick up a dog turd by the ‘clean end.’” Yates, who also attacked the paper, saying “I intend to help that ship sink . . . torpedoes away!" defended his comments by saying they were protected under the First Amendment.

Crump, who denies drug charges, said in a letter to the Sun: “I do not feel safe here, and I will not continue to be put in a position of self-defense. I am an innocent person and an American citizen . . . The level of stress and anxiety created by a public official who commands a small army and who targets someone in such a manner for First Amendment protected activities is hard to measure.”

Sun publisher David Mossesso has called for Yates to be fired, Brantley writes. The paper accused Yates of changing "police procedure to slow reporters' access to public information—logs, police reports and affidavits for arrest warrants. Reporters are getting reports later and only after review by an information officer. They also no longer may speak directly to detectives." City attorney Phillip Crego said the city was investigating the claims, while the mayor had no comment. The Jonesboro Sun requires registration to access the story on Yates and Crump, but the newspaper can be viewed by clicking here.

This isn't Yates' first brush with controversy. Locals say Yates and his police department have a history of racially motivated acts, reports Daily Kos. "John Marshall, who was president of the NAACP while Yates was Americus’ (Ga.) police chief, says he found the leader of the force to be a negative influence." Marshall told reporters, “He is a rogue police chief. We did everything to get him out of here, and it’s been a great relief to have him away from here. But he left a lot of his men that were abusive and violent. And that’s his nature. He’s the worst thing we’ve ever seen.”

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