At first we thought it was all some sort of bad joke. Beginning with a Free Press headline announcing that Flint police were starting to "crack down" on those wearing their pants too low. We figured bad-taste puns like that were exclusive to News Hits. But it looks like even the protectors of family values over at the Freep couldn't avoid slipping in a little assy humor on a story like this. And we really got a hoot out of the accompanying diagram, which showed how much trouble you could get into with Johnny Law, depending on the amount of droop in your drawers.
Add to it all the fact that Flint was last year identified as one of the most dangerous cities in America, and you can understand why we were double-checking our calendar to make sure it wasn't really April 1.
But no. And once we stopped our chuckling ("Crack down" — get it? Tee-hee-hee!) the truly ludicrous began to look like it had a really disturbing side to it.
Certainly the American Civil Liberties Union isn't laughing. On Monday, the Michigan branch of the group sent a letter to Flint's acting police chief, a guy named David R. Dicks.
"This immoral self-expression goes beyond free speech," Dicks announced in a memo to the city's cops last month. "It rises to the crime of indecent exposure/disorderly persons."
Were we writing Dicks' memos, we'd probably have said the really low low-riders had sunk to a criminal level, but that's why we'd never be able to get a job like that.
But it seems like there is some dispute about what is and isn't a crime in this butt case. Dicks (do you realize how hard it is to keep from making fun of this guy's name here?) contends just having the tops of your undies exposed warrants a warning from the cops. ("Put 'em up!"?)
Dicks is also quoted as saying that people wearing saggy pants are giving cops probable cause to search them.
That sort of thing, as you could well imagine, really gets the attention of the ACLU.
"Your new practice of stopping and threatening young men with disorderly conduct for wearing 'saggy pants' is a blatant violation of the United States Constitution," ACLU honchos wrote to Dicks. "Although you were recently appointed Chief of the Flint Police Department, you cannot appoint yourself chief of the 'fashion police.' You have no power to criminalize a style of dress because you find it distasteful. We ask that you halt this practice immediately."
And this is where it gets serious (and why we're not being so cheeky that we're talking about the ACLU having its panties all in a bunch over this). Flint, a city that is facing mighty financial struggles, can ill afford the expense of defending a policy so silly. Sure, if someone is walking around with their ass showing, then arrest them for indecent exposure. But if it's just boxers making an appearance, well, Dicks and his troops are going to have to live with it, or waste precious resources defending this crackdown in court.
"It is our true hope that we can resolve this issue amicably," wrote the ACLU. "However, if there is no change in policy, we cannot stand idly by while the city engages in a wholesale and obvious violation of residents' constitutional rights."News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact him at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]