ACLU to Flint: Lay off saggy pants
Flint residents who like to wear their pants in the latest sagging fashion shouldn't have to pull up their trousers to stay out of jail, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan.
The right to wear sagging pants is protected by the U.S. Constitution, the state ACLU argued in a letter it sent Monday to acting Flint Police Chief David R. Dicks, who has ordered officers to start arresting people who wear saggy pants that expose Skivvies, boxer shorts or bare bottoms.
The letter called for an immediate end to the stopping and searching of individuals with low-riding pants and a response from the Police Department by July 21. If not, the ACLU said, it would be willing to represent in federal court any Flint resident who has been or has had a "legitimate fear" of being stopped, threatened or charged under the ordinance.
The state ACLU said the new policy gives police authority to conduct unconstitutional searches and seizures, promotes racial profiling, violates due process and interferes with individuals' freedom to express themselves in their appearance.
"Given that Flint has one of the highest crime rates in the country, you would think the police chief would be fighting crime instead of the latest fashion fad," said Michael J. Steinberg, legal director of the state ACLU.
Dicks did not return multiple calls Monday seeking comment, and Flint Mayor Donald J. Williamson said he had no comment on the sagging-pants policy.
In an interview last week with the Free Press, Dicks said wearing pants below the waist is a crime -- a violation of the city's disorderly conduct ordinance -- and can give police probable cause to search saggers for other crimes, such as weapon or drug possession.
Individuals would be subject to searches and punishment of up to 93 days in jail and a $500 fine.
"It is not the job of the police officer to enforce his idea of what dress is appropriate when no crime is being committed," Steinberg said.
Steinberg said the ACLU would prefer not to go to court but was prepared to do so.
"People should be concerned when police officers go up to individuals and lift up their shirts to expose young men's boxer shorts and claim that they're acting indecent," Steinberg said, citing a Free Press video report last week on the enforcement. "There's nothing different between that and lifting up women's skirts to expose their underwear and charging them with indecent exposure."
He cited exposed bra straps or slips as comparable fashion faux pas that would not warrant police searches and citations.
"It's another matter if you can see their naked buttocks ... but it is not a crime to wear sagging pants where boxers are exposed."
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