An Arkansas reporter is stepping down as the police reporter for the Jonesboro Sun largely because of comments the town’s police chief has made about her on Facebook, the newspaper says.
Sunshine Crump resigned stating she doesn’t “feel safe here” after Police Chief Mike Yates repeatedly blasted her on Facebook.
“Dealing with ole Sunshine is like trying to pick up a dog turd by the ‘clean end,’” Yates wrote in one post, according to the Sun.
“Pro-dope smoking, law license revoked, left wing liberal, smelly, arrested by police, unscrupulous reporter,” he allegedly said in another.
Crump has a lapsed law license in the state of Texas, Arkansas Business reported.
“I intend to help that ship sink ... torpedoes away!” he allegedly said of the Sun.
Crump says police officers supported Yates’ behavior.
“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,” Crump wrote in her resignation letter to editors.
“I do not feel safe here, and I will not continue to be put in a position of self-defense,” she wrote. “I am an innocent person and an American citizen.”
Yates stands by his posts, citing his right to free speech, the Arkansas Times reported.
David Mossesso, the Sun’s publisher, says Yates should be fired for his social media activity.
“The comments that Chief Yates posted are very disturbing and damaging to this newspaper,” Mosesso said. “It’s time for Mayor Harold Perrin to step up and deal with him to prevent this from happening to any other local business or private citizen. Any other entity would have already fired or suspended an employee who made these types of vindictive comments, and our city department heads should obviously be held to an even higher standard.”
The Sun has hired a Little Rock law firm that is urging the Jonesboro city attorney to take action against Yates.
The newspaper alleges that Yates changed police procedure to block public access to information like police reports, affidavits and arrest warrants. They say reporters are being blocked from speaking directly with detectives and that subversion means they’re getting reports much later.
“At a minimum, these statements are unprofessional and unbecoming of the Jonesboro Police Chief, and The Jonesboro Sun respectfully requests that he and other officers and employees of the Jonesboro Police Department refrain from making similar comments in the future,” attorney John E. Tull III wrote in a letter to the city attorney, Phillip Crego.
Crego says that city is currently investigating the claim.
Image credit: Flickr Creative Commons / Per Sandström, Flickr / Bill Hinton