Prosecutor: Damascus cannot issue tickets, patrol highways

After finding Damascus in violation of the state’s speed trap laws, Prosecuting Attorney Cody Hiland has now ordered the city to cease patrol of all highways.

 

“The City of Damascus is hereby ordered to cease patrolling all affected highways within the jurisdictional limits of the city,” Hiland wrote in a sanction against the city Wednesday.


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Hiland found in February the city was, in fact, in violation of the Arkansas speed trap statute because the city’s revenues from fines exceeded 30 percent of the city’s expenditures for each of the two previous years.

Thirty percent of revenues is one of the two ways a city can be deemed a speed trap, per the statute. A city can also be found at fault if more than 50 percent of its tickets are for violations of less than 10 mph over the speed limit. Damascus was not in violation of the 10 mph term.

The sanction does not bar Damascus police from responding to calls for services within the city. However, any and all traffic infractions will be handled by the Faulkner County Sheriff’s Office, Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office and Arkansas State Police.

“I am not unmindful of the need for the City of Damascus to regulate traffic within its jurisdictional limits,” Hiland wrote. “The residents of the city should not be forced to endure a lack of public safety service as a result of the police department having improperly abused its police power.”

Faulkner County Chief Deputy Matt Rice said deputies have been advised of the Damascus’ sanction and will run radar and patrol city streets.

“We will try our best to be up there and be seen in the area,” he said. “We will handle all traffic violations in Damascus. State police have also been advised.”

In finding Damascus police were “abusing police power,” Hiland ruled that any officer found in violation of the sanction will be issued a Class A misdemeanor for each citation or summons issued, which could also constitute a misdemeanor arrest.

“This Order does not apply to the City of Damascus responding to citizen calls for assistance in the enforcement of the state or local law,” Hiland wrote. “It only applies to the enforcement of traffic violations.”

Damascus City Attorney Beau Wilcox said the city disagrees with Hiland’s ruling and plans to “vigorously contest” sanctions imposed against the city “due to the implications they would have on the safety of the community and motorists generally.”

The city council voted Tuesday night to allow Wilcox “to immediately seek judicial intervention in the matter,” which Wilcox said he is “diligently pursuing today [Wednesday] and will hopefully obtain.”

No other comment will be made on the city’s behalf through Wilcox or any other city official until the case is filed in Faulkner County Circuit Court, Wilcox said. From there, more details regarding the case from the city’s standpoint will be released.

Damascus has a unique setting in that it has a five-lane highway running north-south through it, a major artery used by 20,000 cars a day during peak travel periods, according to state figures.

The approximately 2.1-mile stretch through the town, marked 45 mph, is relatively straight, with no stop lights or speed control mechanisms, but has 11 intersecting streets as well as business driveways. The speed limit is 60 mph both north and south of Damascus.

Wilcox has argued in the past that with no traffic lights to regulate traffic, police force is “the only thing controlling traffic flow in Damascus.”

The order issued against Damascus states the sanction will remain in place “through the completion of the current prosecutor’s term of office.”


Log Cabin Democrat Correspondant Alex Kienlen contributed to this article.


Cdl Zeroonenine 16 days ago
why wouldnt ASP be responsible for US65 and damascus pd would be able to concentrate on all other issues?
Kyle Johnson 16 days ago
This is just another example of a small town using it's police force as a source of revenue instead of "serving and protecting it's citizens." That's why there's a law against this. I assume this town voted for Trump.
Randy O. Bowling 15 days ago

The powers that be, obviously, have such connections to the corruption that follows herein, choose to not do anything about correcting the problems.


Sunday Morning:  October 17, 2016; (0955 hours)  Damascus PD SUV,  running radar in driveway (Northbound side) less than 100 meters North of
the Twin Groves City Limits.  This is South of the Damascus, AR City Limit Sign & thence further South.  Even Further South of the Batesville Creek Bridge.

They are taking advantage of the Black Citizens of Twin Groves, the Damascus FD leadership is racist towards the Twin Groves Citizens & the Twin Groves VFD.  Don't believe this?  Just ask the Faulkner County Fire Chiefs about statements made in the FC Fire Chief's Association in 2016 by the Damascus official in attendance..  

The good folks at Twin Groves are helpless to correct this situation due to their poor economic status.

At Damascus, the former Fire Chief's wife (the Current Fire chief's mother) is also the secretary for the Damascus Water Department.  Not only nepotism; but, she also will not release public information under the Arkansas FOIA regarding Water Bills..

I personally like the Damascus Mayor; but, after several strokes, his thinking & memory are not good.  He needs to be removed ASAP for his own health stake & the Damascus City Council needs to be replaced.  I personally heard him tell the current Police Chief (a good fellow) that: "I don't care how many tickets you write, just write as many as you can..this town needs the money."

The whole city is corrupt EXCEPT for Water Superintendent Randy Paul Nicholson, & his staff Allen & John.  These gentlemen are honest to the Tee!!!  The Damascus Water Department should be under a Water Users Board, not the corrupt city of Damascus.  The Board should include water users from South of the North Cadron Bridge, the Republican Community, Martinville community, Greenbrier Rural/North Cadron, Damascus, & Rabbit Ridge.  Bonds could be paid off early if this was done & there would be a public accounting report w/ a monthly public business meeting to discuss ALL issues, budget, expenses, salary's, & fire department support.

The Damascus Town charter needs to be dissolved (ASAP) by either the Attorney General &/or the Secretary of State, the police & fire departments dissolved with police protection provided by the Van Buren County & the Faulkner County Sheriff's Offices; the Fire Department turned over to the people of Van Buren County & the people of Faulkner County.

Current Damascus City Attorney Beau Wilcox, when he was a reporter for the Log Cabin Democrat newspaper, was notorious for quoting people on things they never said.  He would NOT correct those false quotes.  This I now first hand.

Has he changed?  In my opinion & via rumors....no!!!  I suspect, in my opinion, he is within his proven genre' as the Damascus City Attorney.  In my opinion, & he is  perpetuating his flagrante delicto.

s/Randy O. Bowling 501-679-4500
P.O. Box 711
Greenbrier, AR  72058
Retired Assistant Fire Chief/Twin Groves, AR

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