With television cameras rolling and a reporter from the Chicago Tribune in the audience, the Forest Park Village Council voted Monday to table a proposed ordinance to issue tickets to wearers of saggy pants with exposed undies and charge them a fine up to $750. 

But after the meeting Mayor Anthony Calderone said he was committed to passing the new rule and would work to get it back on the village agenda.

Calderone placed the tweak of the village’s “indecent conduct” ordinance on the village council agenda, but when reported by the Review over the weekend some residents worried the new amendment would be used by police to harass residents for their fashion choices.

“The Forest Park police should not become the fashion police,” said Forest Park School Board member Sean Blaylock before the meeting.

“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 Deputy Chief Tom Aftanas said he and Chief James Ryan had not even heard about the proposed ordinance.

“My guess is that if it passed we would not enforce it immediately,”Aftanas said in an email.

The proposed change amended 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.” The change was to go into effect Nov. 20. 

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.

During public comment, several audience members complained that the ordinance was too invasive and un-American.

“My fear is that this can become akin to ‘stop-and-frisk’ in New York,” said Nick Ardinger. He said the New York City chief of police created the rule to target “young men of color.” 

“Is [exposed underwear] really a threat to our village?” he asked.

Pastor Bill Teague said before the meeting that although he personally preached against the droopy-drawers look from the pulpit, he worried without an advanced education campaign from the village, police would be picking up people for a law they never heard of.

“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.

 Frank Hansen said the proposed rule went “against basic American values,” was legally controversial and was trying to regulate self-expression.

“There are plenty of things we find offensive, but being offensive shouldn’t make it illegal.”

Calderone put the issue on the agenda at the urging of others, he said. Calderone said none of those people showed up at Monday’s public meeting to share their views.

Commissioner Rory Hoskins made the motion to table the vote.

Calderone said he was planning to convene a “diversity committee” to talk about the new rule. 

“Both whites and blacks have been observed walking with sagging pants,” the mayor said. “A community should have some civic pride. I look forward to this conversation continuing.” Calderone referred to enforcing the ordinance not as racial profiling, but “behavioral profiling.”

After the meeting Calderone said he was committed to following up and passing the new rule. As for possible lawsuits, he said similar saggy-pants laws throughout the country have held up in court. 

He said he was hoping to start a conversation with members of the new diversity committee, “to see if we can get some overall buy-in,” to reintroduce the ordinance. 

Calderone said any citizen of the village could be a member of the diversity committee if they called village hall.

 Contact:

Email: jlotus@forestparkreview.com 

Twitter: @FP_Review

Local judge questions proposed rule

Adjudication Judge Perry Gulbrandsen rules on Forest Park's local ordinance violations twice a month at village hall. Saggy pants violations would come to his courtroom.

He stresses that he finds the saggy pants look obnoxious.

"Viscerally, when you see people walking with their pants below their buttocks, you wonder how they can walk," he said. "It's a look that appears to be connected to being a gang member or a wannabe gang member."

But Gulbrandsen said he didn't know if the saggy pants ordinance would pass muster constitutionally.

"Wearing clothing is a constitutional issue. We have to connect [saggy pants] to a criminal offense," he said. "Civil rights are an important issue in any community."

Gulbrandsen said officers stopping people on the street often face "spontaneous eruption of anger," when the people they're arresting start to argue or become violent.  

"This could be a flashpoint issue. We could get downstream charges and incidents of violence," he said. "Police officers have a tough enough job without igniting a situation because the commissioners want it."

"I'm glad this ordinance was tabled because we need to do 360-degree research on this to see how solid their ground is [constitutionally], and how this ordinance should be shaped if they want to put it in place."

Jean Lotus

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...

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