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article imageFlint police chief says sagging pants a crime, ACLU says it isn't a crime

By Cynthia Trowbridge     Jul 25, 2008 in Crime
The controversy between the Flint police chief and the ACLU continues over sagging pants. Is it a crime to have sagging pants that expose your underwear or even more?
Two reports were made on the crackdown of sagging pants in Flint Michigan. The next report was the ACLU telling acting Flint Police Chief David R. Dicks that it is not a crime to wear sagging pants. The ACLU sent a letter saying wearing sagging pants is protected by the U.S. Constitution. [See the grouped with reports.]
The American Civil Liberties Union gave Flint police Chief David Hicks until July 21 to cease from stopping and searching those with low-riding pants exposing underwear or bare bottoms.
Dicks said he will not change his mind even though the ACLU has said they will take legal action against him.
According to Dicks told the Free Press on Sunday, "I'm going to keep on doing what I'm doing. I guess I'm expecting a lawsuit.
Dicks said he has only issued warnings since the policy went into effect on June 27.
Dicks said, "I don't see how a warning is a civil rights violation."
According to Dicks wearing pants below the waist is a violation of the city's disorderly conduct ordinance which makes it a crime. He said if the buttocks is exposed it is indecent exposure.
The crimes are misdemeanors and can land the offender in jail for 93 days and be fined up to $500 according to Dicks.
Because Dicks is not backing down the ACLU is looking for those that could be a part of the first lawsuit of its kind nationally.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union's Michigan chapter told the Free Press it is looking for those who are targets of the policy to talk to them.
Michael J. Steinberg, legal director of the state ACLU, said Monday, "We are confident that young men in Flint will contact us now that the chief has announced that he won't budge. If they do, we'll sue. We may have the dubious distinction of being the first saggy pants lawsuit in the country."
According to Dicks, "I think people are catching on and pulling up their pants. I'm getting a lot of support from local parents and churches, and the mayor said he supports me 1,000%."
Other cities are also passing ordinances against sagging pants. In the Chicago Illinois suburb of Lynwood the village trustees passed an ordinance that anyone caught exposing 3 inches or more of their underwear will be fined $25.
Lynwood Mayor Eugene Williams said, "We need to stop this offensive and unsanitary behavior. We have to be big enough to take the heat. Tell the chief in Flint that I support him, and tell him to hang in there."
More than 70% of the voters in Riviera Beach, Florida approved a measure in March that that those who wear sagging pants for their first violation will face a $150 fine. For a third offence they could go to jail.
These crackdowns are causing a national debate on what is freedom of expression.
On Wednesday July 23 a community forum was held that was organized by youth and community groups and was to be a dialogue not a debate. Those attending were from various professions and included both young and older people.
Flint resident Nayyirah Shariff said "It seems like you're targeting youth."
According to she disagrees with Police Chief David Dicks' decision to charge those who wear sagging pants with disorderly conduct or indecent exposure.
Speaking of Dicks she said, "It's not the community's morals. I think he's kind of out of touch."
Even though many agreed with her there were those who did not agree.
An eighth-grade counselor Lovie Giles, supports the crackdown even though it could result in the offenders paying fines or serve jail time. She believes wearing saggy pants is more about peer pressure than about self-expression.
She said, "I think that children should not dictate what they can and cannot do. Parents need to set the tone for children."
Even though Dicks was invited to the forum he did not attend.
Those who oppose the crackdown feel the city should put their focus on more serious crimes while those who support the policy focus on decency and respect.
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