ACLU explore lawsuit over city ban on saggy pants


By Ben Schmitt

Detroit Free Press



FLINT, Mich. — Saggers unite: The ACLU wants to talk to you about possibly being part of the first lawsuit of its kind nationally.

Flint Police Chief David Dicks has said he will not back down from his policy of filing disorderly conduct or indecent exposure charges against those whose saggy pants allow too much underwear or their bottoms to show on city streets.

In response, the American Civil Liberties Union’s Michigan chapter told the Detroit Free Press on Monday that it is now looking for targets of the policy to talk with the organization.

"We are confident that young men in Flint will contact us now that the chief has announced that he won’t budge," Michael J. Steinberg , legal director of the state ACLU, said Monday. "If they do, we’ll sue. We may have the dubious distinction of being the first saggy pants lawsuit in the country."

The ACLU had set Monday as the deadline for the police chief to halt the Flint police policy of stopping and searching individuals who wear their pants so low their underwear or bottoms show .

Trachelle Young, chief legal officer for the City of Flint, sent Steinberg a letter dated Thursday stating the city was looking into Steinberg’s concerns .

Steinberg said he is particularly troubled by a Free Press video that showed Dicks searching a man wearing a polo shirt over saggy pants.

Despite the ACLU’s threat of a lawsuit, Dicks said Flint police are "going to keep doing what we’re doing."


"I think people are catching on and pulling up their pants," the chief said. "I’m getting a lot of support from local parents and churches, and the mayor said he supports me 1,000 percent."

Dicks said saggy pants are a crime — a violation of the city’s disorderly conduct ordinance — and exposing the buttocks is indecent exposure. Both crimes are misdemeanors punishable by 93 days to a year in jail and fines of up to $500.

Meanwhile, other cities are covering their behinds as well. Village trustees in the Chicago suburb of Lynwood, Ill., passed an ordinance last week that says people caught exposing 3 inches or more of their underwear will be fined $25.

"We need to stop this offensive and unsanitary behavior," said Lynwood Mayor Eugene Williams. "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."

In Riviera Beach, Fla., more than 70% of the community’s voters approved a measure in March that imposes a series of penalties on saggers with each violation. First-time violators face a $150 fine. Third-time offenders could do jail time.

The crackdown has sparked national debate on what constitutes freedom of expression.


(c) 2008, Detroit Free Press.


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