Residents are worried a proposed local ordinance banning “saggy pants” in Forest Park will be used by police to harass residents for their fashion choices.
The village council will vote Monday on whether to tweak the local public indecency ordinance to ban undie-revealing droopy pants on Forest Park streets. The rule would go into effect Nov. 20.
“I’m concerned that it’s being passed without people being educated enough,” said Pastor William Teague of Hope Tabernacle Community Church. Teague said he doesn’t care for the fashion and preaches against it from the pulpit.
“People are wearing it as a fad. Kids need to learn they can’t get a summer job if they can’t pull up their pants,” he said.
Teague said the fashion was “not just an African American thing, but that’s the way [the enforcement of the ordinance] will come out.”
The village should undertake an information campaign before changing the rules, Teague said.
“It has to be a training pattern, so people don’t get caught up in the legal system because they don’t know [about the law],” he said.
The proposed ordinance amends the “indecent conduct” section of Forest Park village code to prohibit “wearing pants or shorts falling more than three (3) inches below the person’s hips (crest of the ilium) and exposing that portion of the person’s buttocks or undergarments.” Offenders can be fined up to $750.
The Village of Maywood passed a similar ordinance in 2012, but it recently was given new life by a poster campaign sponsored by Mayor Edwenna Perkins.
Forest Park Mayor Anthony Calderone put the ordinance on Monday’s village agenda.
“Many residents have approached me asking that we adopt an ordinance prohibiting this [saggy pants] fashion, much like the Village of Maywood has done, as they find it offensive,” he wrote to the council.
But some residents say they find it too extreme.
Forest Park District 91 School Board Member Sean Blaylock said the rule takes police resources away from more important matters.
“It’s a terrible fashion statement,” Blaylock said. “I’m the father of three teenage boys and they don’t leave my house [looking] like that.”
Blaylock said the library, community center and park district can ask a patron to leave if their clothing is inappropriate, as can businesses. The schools have a dress code. He also said wearing baseball caps used to be considered threatening.
“What’s next? Tattoos? I’ve seen some tattoos that offend me, are we going to make that a crime?
“When I saw the ordinance I thought why burden the Forest Park police to take time out from solving crimes? It’s not right, it’s not smart and it’s not a good use of police time.”
Forest Park mother Maggie Simmons characterized the droopy pants look as a “defiant sign of immature rebellion that’s disrespectful in nature.”
Still, the mother of three teenagers doesn’t think it should be an excuse for the police to pull someone off the street.
“I think [the ordinance] is an expression of fear, fear of a criminal lifestyle,” she said. “It’s just like the 60s with the fear of long hair. The more attention you give it, the more defiant people will become. They’re doing it for attention.”