Jonesboro (AR) Sun police reporter Sunshine Crump resigned Monday after being repeatedly attacked on Facebook by Jonesboro Police Chief Mike Yates. She told her paper that “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.”
Here are some of the comments Yates posted about the reporter:
* “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.'”
The Arkansas Times reports:
Waylon Harris, the Sun’s managing editor, said Crump had told the paper allegations about drug use were false. She said she once had a law license in Texas, but decided to quit practice and so stopped paying annual licensing fees, resulting in a procedural suspension. She was arrested once, in college for participating in a protest. The charge was dropped, Harris said.
The newspaper’s publisher and its law firm have asked the city to take action against the chief. “Any other entity would have already fired or suspended an employee who made these types of vindictive comments,” says publisher David Mosesso, “and our city department heads should obviously be held to an even higher standard.”
The chief says his comments about Crump are “constitutionally protected free speech” and that “I didn’t sacrifice my rights to freedom of speech for the sake of my job as police chief.”
Yates was out to lunch when I called this afternoon.
Update: Publisher Mosesso tells me that Crump moved from the circulation department to the police beat about a year ago. One of her early stories was about the chief getting extra pay by teaching at Arkansas State University. He was supposed to have written permission from a supervisor, but he didn’t have it. The chief had to quit the teaching job because of Crump’s article, says Mosesso.
“That’s when it all began. This is definitely a retaliatory action.”
Why didn’t the paper just put Crump on another beat?
“We didn’t want to reassign her because that’s exactly what the police chief wanted. …We had had several meetings with the mayor and we had hoped he would have stepped in and stopped [the chief’s bullying].”
Mosesso says he’s still considering a lawsuit, “but it’s my hope that if this can be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction we might be able to get [Crump] to rescind her resignation.”
I’ve been unable to reach Crump, and Mosesso wouldn’t give me her contact information. “She’s a very private person,” he says.