Baggy Pants Ban in Florida Sparks Controversy

Rapper Lil Wayne
Rapper Lil Wayne

Maybe the fashion police should crack down on saggy trousers, but real law enforcement? A new ordinance by passed in a three-to-one vote by the city council of Cocoa, Florida prevents a "person in public view from wearing pants or skirts below the waistline that expose the undergarments or the skin…." The law will go into effect on January 1, 2013.

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Although members of the city council say they passed the ban in order to increase civility in their "family oriented" town of 17,000, critics claim it's a mask for additional "stop and frisk" type activities by the police. "This is nothing more than a vehicle for further harassment of young people," Alberta Wilson, president of the Central Brevard Branch of the NAACP told "I don't like the saggy pants anymore than you do, however, I respect people's Constitutional rights." Police Chief Mark Klayman acknowledged that the ordinance would provide greater opportunity to confront individuals on the street. "This would give the police officers the probable-cause stop," Klayman said. "This could also be a measure to allow us to get drugs and guns off the street just based on this stop."

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Wilson expressed her concern that the new law might lead to violent confrontations between violator and the police. "I'm worried about enforcement, I fear a police officer getting some resistance and resorting to some means and doing bodily harm to a child," she said.

The town tried to pass a similar ordinance in 2010, but backed down when constitutional court challenges were mounted against other municipalities, although some bans have been successfully passed. The first day a 2011 saggy trousers law went into effect in Fort Worth, Texas, 50 people were kicked off of the public bus system.

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The saggy pants ban will be a three strike policy: violators will pay a fine of 25$ for the first offence, $50 for the second, and $100 for every additional offence thereafter. It will be up to discretion of the police officer to determine the fine.

Tyler Furbish, the lone dissenter on the city council, pointed out that in an era of budget cuts, the new law would burden a police department that was already stretched thin. "I think it is going to put a strain on our law enforcement people who have better things to enforce," Furbish argued to the council. "I think we have a risk of too much regulation. What do we do next, outlaw blue houses?"

Do you think banning saggy pants is a good idea or does it infringe on civil rights? Please let us know in the comments below.