Jonesboro Police Chief Says Officers Improperly Cited Drivers

July 18, 2007 - Posted at 6:58 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO-State Statute 2751310 restricts motorists from passing law enforcement officers stopped on the shoulder of a multi-lane highway.

"The fact of it is, the statute was passed to keep officers safe. We don't need to abuse it."

Therefore, Jonesboro Police Chief Mike Yates is refunding money to several people he feels were wrongfully cited by his officers.

"What happened was, apparently some of our newer officers didn't understand the full code. So, whenever they stopped on the side of the road, whether they were conducting a traffic stop or not and the car didn't move over, they took that as being a violation of that particular code," said Yates.

So when does the code apply?

"It only applies during those events where the officer is conducting a traffic stop or business and his lights are flashing," said Yates.

In several cases, motorists were cited whether the officer was on official business or not.

"We make mistakes here at the police department too. Sometimes it is a little difficult for us to admit it, but when I found this one I said, the right thing to do is fix it," said Yates.

The chief says he would have acted sooner, but the situation just now came to his attention.

"The people that had been issued the citation came in and paid. So, we didn't know what the circumstances were. Nobody called and complained about it. I didn't become aware of it until I met with an attorney yesterday and he pointed it out to me," said Yates.

And now that it's been pointed out, J.P.D. says they will fix it.

"It's a mistake, and I think it speaks well of our folks to say, hey we goofed and we'll take care of it. I don't know of many police departments that would do that," said Yates.

The chief says he distributed and reexplained the statute to his officers.

As far as the refunds are concerned, he plans to handle them on a case by case basis.

So far only 14 have been found.