After calling a reporter a “smelly liberal,” among other things on his Facebook page, Police Chief Mike Yates has resigned from the Jonesboro Police Department. According to a Reuters piece posted in The Raw Story, he said that he let his anger get the better of him, and he was resigning because of his actions.
Sunshine Crump, the reporter he referred to in his derogatory posts, resigned from the Jonesboro Sun after that incident, because she no longer felt safe working there. Since Yates’ resignation, though, she is going back to her job. The Sun’s publisher, David Mosesso, said that Crump won’t be assigned to law enforcement, but she will be assigned another beat.
Mayor Harold Perrin suspended Yates without pay immediately following that incident. According to ABC-8, Jonesboro’s ABC affiliate, Perrin said, in a statement:
“Chief of police is a very high standard. Any type of communication, whether it be on social, phone or whatever, will be strictly business. There’s no assumptions or anything like that. It’s strictly business. If any of those would occur, it would be grounds for immediate termination.”
“To say I’m disappointed would be an understatement,” he added, after talking about reviewing the police department’s Freedom of Information Act policies.
Yates’ comments came after Crump did a story about a class he taught at Arkansas State University without the proper permit on file. He called out both her and the paper on his Facebook page, saying:
“Wonder if ole Sunshine (reporter) 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.”
“This is the kind of journalism we have now … ask ole Sunshine (reporter) why her law license got suspended next time you see her.”
“Reminds me of a song … ‘ain’t no Sunshine when she’s gone’ etc.”
“Dealing with ole Sunshine is like trying to pick up a dog turd by the ‘clean end.'”
And about the Sun, he said:
“I intend to help that ship sink… torpedoes away!!!.”
The Arkansas Times also said that the department initially stood behind Yates for it and that Crump was actually arrested for participating in a protest while she was in college, but those charges were dropped. She also stopped paying the fees for her law license, so it was procedurally suspended, not suspended for misconduct. And she told the Sun that the allegations of drug use were false. So Yates’ comments could be considered libel, as they appeared in writing, were not true, and had malicious intent behind them.
Yates initially stood behind his comments, saying that he was merely exercising his First Amendment rights. The First Amendment protects us from government retaliation for free speech, but does not protect us from all the consequences of exercising that right, up to and including losing our jobs.
It’s also true that if you hold a high profile position, such as chief of police, you can expect the press to write things about you sometimes, even things that aren’t especially favorable. The best way to avoid most of that is to do everything above board, and admit it when you screw up. In other words, hold yourself to a higher standard.
But someone who would assume a reporter who wrote an unfavorable story about him was a drug-using liberal perhaps doesn’t believe a higher standard applies to him. In which case, he should not be in charge of an entire police department. Yates was right to resign.
Watch a local news report on the story below: