About three decades ago, when he was a banjo-toting stand-up comedian rather than an actor and screenwriter, Steve Martin made the jocular suggestion that crime could be radically reduced through the imposition of the death penalty for traffic violations.

As is so often the case, government policy appears to have overtaken parody, at least in Jericho, Arkansas:

“It was just too much, having to return to court twice on the same day to contest yet another traffic ticket, and Fire Chief Don Payne didn’t hesitate to tell the judge what he thought of the police and their speed traps. The response from cops? They shot him. Right there in court.”

Until 1990, Jericho was patrolled by the county sheriff’s office, but otherwise blessedly free of armed tax-feeders. That changed when the town received a grant to create a police force, and the population has been suffering ever since: The badge-flashing gangsters are plucking the impoverished population bald through speed traps and other corrupt, opportunistic “enforcement” shakedowns.

Former Jericho resident Larry Harris complains, “You can’t even buy a loaf of bread, but we’ve got seven police officers.” Harris is one of many former residents who have literally been driven from the town by police harassment.

The attempted murder of Fire Chief Payne took place when he went to court to complain about a bogus ticket that was apparently written in retaliation for Payne’s decision to protest an earlier ticket in court.

Although the details are sketchy, Payne ended up in a confrontation with the entire seven-officer police force, which degenerated into what was described as a “scuffle” (and is more accurately described as an act of gang violence against Payne).

Displaying the kind of heroism that increasingly typifies our stalwart enforcers of the law, one of Payne’s assailants drew his firearm and shot the badly out-numbered victim in the hip.

The local judge has started — belatedly — to dismiss the bogus tickets, and the town police force has been temporarily disbanded. Since that force is filling a much needed void, nothing less than its abolition will suffice.