Dick'n around in Flint

Sep 3, 2008 at 12:00 am

For someone who has sworn to uphold the law, David Dick seems to have an unusually hard time grasping the fundamentals of something called the First Amendment. For the benefit of Dick, who is Flint's acting chief of police (though he's not acting like a very good one, from what we can tell), that amendment is attached to an apparently obscure document known as the U.S. Constitution. Herr Dick may have heard of it, but might consider actually reading it and the attached Bill of Rights, the first of which decrees:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Dick first attracted the attention of the Michigan chapter of the ACLU earlier this year when he set out to make Flint — which has one of the country's highest crime rates — safe from the immense public threat posed by droopy drawers. Evidently, Dick heard the term "fashion police" and took the concept more than a few steps too far.

Advised by the ACLU that his "crackdown" on sagging pants was blatantly unconstitutional, the Dickster vowed to keep his cops on the lookout for illicit boxers, making him and his department the butt of jokes far and wide. Although nothing has been filed yet, the ACLU tells us it is preparing a lawsuit in that case.

Now Chief Dick is in the ACLU's hot water again, this time for a gag rule imposed on the cops under his command. The civil liberties organization, on behalf of three Flint cops, filed suit in federal court last week challenging Dick's order that prevents Flint's finest from making unauthorized statements to the media.

Think some of them might want to say that it's a dopey idea to be spending their time harassing dudes for having their skivvies showing when they could be, like, you know, trying to catch murderers and the like?

Whatever it is the cops want to tell reporters, though, there's no doubt they should be free to do so.

There was a similar situation in Detroit a few years back. In 2005, the ACLU's Michael Steinberg wrote Detroit Police Chief Ella Bully-Cummings a letter explaining that her department's policy of keeping officers from speaking to the press was unconstitutional. The department responded by saying that, after conducting a review, it agreed with the ACLU and rescinded the policy.

Dick, on the other hand, appears to be willing to waste the time and resources of his financially struggling city by taking the matter to court. Big mistake.

"It is unfortunate that the police chief would rather drag his city through lengthy and expensive court proceedings than uphold the Constitution," said Kary L. Moss, executive director of the ACLU of Michigan.

"By ignoring our previous attempts to resolve this issue amicably and out of court, the police chief has thumbed his nose at the Constitution and exhibited a blatant disregard for the best interest of his force and the residents he has sworn to protect."

News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact him at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]