Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

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July 18, 2013

Police Chief: Outlawing 'sagging' impractical, possibly unconstitutional

JACKSONVILLE — Jacksonville Police Chief Reece Daniel said Wednesday recent research into the controversial dressing technique known as “sagging” has led him to the conclusion that the city council would be ill-advised to outlaw it.

“Sagging” is the practice of wearing slacks, shorts, pants or jeans that sag so low they hang below the waist. It is at this point that they reveal brightly colored and patterned  underwear.

The issue of sagging first arose this month when local outreach minister Calvin Brown announced he hopes to convince the city council to outlaw the practice.

Brown said he also plans to collect signatures on a petition to demonstrate public desire for such a law.

In response,  City Manager Mo Raissi asked Daniel to research the practice.

Brown is founder of the recently-established men's outreach ministry “Brothers On The Move.” He said he considers sagging to be a very real and dangerous problem for kids.

But Chief Daniel said he's not sure prohibiting would be the best decision at this point.

“This is a social issue, like many others that need to be dealt with in homes, churches and businesses – and not through a city ordinance that would be unenforceable,” the chief said.

Daniel said this is an issue that would best be addressed at home – and not by city ordinance.

“People always look to the government to cure social ills such as this,” Daniel emphasized. “If the city were to pass such an ordinance they would surely be sued and lose because people would wonder, 'what’s next?'”

“Do we prohibit people from wearing pajamas in stores or not allow heavy people to wear Spandex or shorts?” the chief added. “As angry as it makes me, you must remember we live in a country where it is allowable to burn our flag. Can you imagine what the courts would make of this issue?”

However,  Daniel said, he doesn't necessarily endorse the practice.

“Don’t misunderstand my response,” the chief said. “I think this practice is less than intelligent and it offends me personally to see some young man wearing his pants in such a manner.”

Snopes.com – a reference website for urban legends, Internet rumors and other stories – verifies that sagging originated in United States prisons.

The practice  became very common because of the lack of belts in prison. Belts were prohibited there so they could not be used as instruments of suicide or to harm others.

In the 1990s, many hip-hop artists such as Ice-T adopted the style outside prison walls.

While “sagging” is practiced primarily by men, some women have adopted a variation of it. This involves wearing low-rise jeans that display G-string underwear.

City Manager Raissi said he decided he wanted the chief to look into the issue after he learned of  Brown's intention to pursue a petition.

Raissi said private businesses such as various airlines and bus authorities have had more success prohibiting sagging than government entities — because of the issue of civil rights.

Additionally, both Raissi and the chief agreed that cities and businesses are vastly different in what they are allowed to do.

“In order for a city to pass such an ordinance they would have to show an overriding public safety connection between young people dressing in a stupid and offensive looking manner and some public safety issue,” Daniel said. “My personal disgust, or yours, is not sufficient to defeat the Constitutional issues involved.”

When starting his extensive research into the issue of sagging, Daniel said he posted a question on the Texas Police Chief’s website asking for copies of any ordinance that has been passed prohibiting the practice of sagging in  Texas.

“To date I have received none,” the chief said. “I DID find several Texas businesses that prohibit the practice on their property.”

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