Should police be arbiters of fashion?

Published 7:41 pm Saturday, December 1, 2012

Bogalusa law enforcement officers are already burdened with the daunting task of fighting a burgeoning crime problem so one has to wonder if they should also become the city’s fashion police.

In a curious move this past week Mayor Charles Mizell informed city council members that he has instructed Police Chief Joe Culpepper to have officers begin cracking down on individuals wearing “saggy pants.” Apparently there is an ordinance on the books passed in 2007 that prohibits anybody from being “found in a state of nudity, or partial nudity…, or in any indecent exposure of his or her person or undergarments” in any public place.

Violators of this ordinance amazingly can earn an offender 30 days of living on the taxpayers’ dollar in jail.

Enforcement of this ordinance will likely resurrect the long-standing debate of “boxers or briefs.”

The ordinance appears to have more holes than a worn pair of jeans, one being a detailed definition of “partial nudity” or “indecent exposure” of a person’s undergarments. What exactly is the meaning of exposure and how can it be fairly enforced?

What if an individual wears gym shorts underneath a pair of jeans? Or does it apply to just below the waist?

Many males, especially in the heat of the summer, work outside shirtless. Under the ordinance, could that be considered “partial nudity”?

The ambiguity, if not the intent, of the law presents what could potentially be a legal minefield.

The fundamental question that may ultimately be decided in court is the legality of a city mandating a dress code on its citizens. Also, is it the wish of the citizens?

The first arrest of anyone wearing his or her pants too low will almost certainly result in a lawsuit, which city officials will be forced to spend their already stretched dollars to defend.

Would a better solution be to find a fiscally responsible way to put more officers on the streets and declare war on crime and not underwear? It is a question citizens must answer.