Monday, July 14, 2008

STUPID POLICE CHIEF TRICKS: MAKING SAGGY PANTS A CRIME

Ben Schmitt, Detroit Free Press Flint residents now have to watch their butts because Police Chief David Dicks is on the lookout. Dicks, who took over the department last month on an interim basis, announced that his officers would start arresting people wearing saggy pants that expose skivvies, boxer shorts or bare bottoms.

"Some people call it a fad," Dicks told the Free Press this week while patrolling the streets of Flint. "But I believe it's a national nuisance. It is indecent and thus it is indecent exposure, which has been on the books for years."

On June 27, the chief issued a departmental memorandum telling officers: "This immoral self expression goes beyond freedom of expression."

The crime, he says, is disorderly conduct or indecent exposure, both misdemeanors punishable by 93 days to a year in jail and/or fines up to $500.

Dicks, 41, broke down his interpretation of the laws as such: Pants pulled completely below the buttocks with underwear showing is disorderly conduct; saggy pants with skin of the buttocks showing is indecent exposure, and saggy pants, not completely below the buttocks, with underwear exposed results in a warning.

The American Civil Liberties Union is already scrutinizing the enforcement, something Dicks fully expected. But he said he's not backing down until the pants stop falling down. . .

On Monday, a Free Press reporter and videographer rode with the chief as he confronted teens sporting the sag look. He issued verbal warnings to several people and said the style also gives police probable cause to search those wearing no-rise jeans.

As he drove through Flint's north and east sides, he flipped on the flashing lights of his departmental-issued Chevy Tahoe as he stopped a shirtless young man walking in the street with saggy shorts and exposed boxers.

"Did you hear about the law?" the chief asked.

"I heard about it the other day," the man responded.

"I'm gonna issue a warning. I need you to get a belt because it's indecent exposure," the chief said to the twentysomething man on Delaware and N. Franklin. "Spread the word, put your shirt on and don't expose your underwear.". . .

"If I pay for my pants, I should be able to wear them how I want to," said 16-year-old Montez Phifer, taking a break from playing hoops in the city Monday. "Everyone thinks it's gangster, but it's a fashion. Nothing more."

His friend, Lorenzo Johnson, 14, said his mother warned him about the chief's stance on sagging.

"I pulled them up to respect her," he said. "When she left I pulled them back down."

Another friend, Senita Abrams, 18, said: "I think it's cute when boys sag.". . .

Greg Gibbs, a lawyer and chair of the ACLU Flint chapter, said the crackdown sounds like a "vast waste of resources."

"We are concerned that the enforcement of the chief's memo may lead to some constitutional violations on a case-by-case basis due to the failure of his memo to define what constitutes indecent exposure," Gibbs said. "From a First Amendment standpoint, I still have to crack the books to find out what the courts have said on this issue.". . .

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