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Louisiana City Just Repealed Its “Saggy Pants” Law After a Black Man Was Shot by Police

“There is no legitimate need for this ordinance beyond racially motivated animus,” the ACLU of Louisiana’s legal director said.

by Emma Ockerman
Jun 12 2019, 2:55pm

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A Louisiana city repealed its so-called “saggy pants” law after a black man was shot during a confrontation with police.

The Shreveport, Louisiana, law, first enacted in 2007 during a wave of similar bans across the country, burdened black men with hundred-dollar fines for wearing pants that fell below their waists. But the city council voted nearly unanimously to end the law at a meeting Tuesday night, according to local CBS affiliate KSLA.

In Caddo Parish, where Shreveport is located, there’s still a “saggy pants” law on the books that affects all unincorporated areas of the parish. But it’s unclear how many other cities have similar bans.

Around the time Shreveport’s was passed, Pine Lawn, Missouri, enacted a similar ban, and Atlanta debated the merits of its own saggy pants law, too, but it was never enacted. A “saggy pants” law also failed to pass in South Carolina in 2018 after lawmakers faced blowback from voters, which forced them to drop their support. The law, which was backed by Democrats, would’ve created a $25 fine for men wearing drooping pants in public spaces.

Riviera Beach, Florida, also imposed its own ban on drooping pants with a $150 fine, but a Palm Beach County Judge declared the law unconstitutional and overturned it in 2009.

In Shreveport, the law resulted in more than 700 violations with fines ranging from $100 to $250. About 96 percent of those fined were black, according to the local Shreveport Times.

In February, Shreveport Officer Traveion Brook fired at Anthony Childs, a 31-year-old black man, eight times during the course of a police chase that reportedly began after a confrontation over sagging pants. (Police haven’t said why they started chasing Childs, but his family members said it was regarding his clothes.)

Brooks alleged that Childs shot himself in the chest after he fled, and the Caddo Parish coroner also determined in April that the bullet that killed Childs was self-inflicted. His death was ruled a suicide.

"I lost my brother. My nieces and nephew lost their father because of his pants. His pants were sagging. This officer chased him through a field because his pants were at a certain length," Childs' sister, Tyren Pucker, said at Tuesday’s city council meeting, according to the Shreveport Times.

After Childs’ death, Shreveport City Councilwoman LeVette Fuller pushed to overturn the city’s saggy pants law, which she considered discriminatory, in May. She said the American Civil Liberties Union was prepared to sue the city if it didn’t overturn the ban. Additionally, people wearing inappropriate clothing can still be fined under the city’s indecency law.

“There is no legitimate need for this ordinance beyond racially motivated animus,” the ACLU of Louisiana’s legal director Katie Schwartzmann wrote in a letter to the city ahead of the vote.

It’s unclear whether the Shreveport Police Department ever arrested anyone solely for sagging pants since the law was only meant to result in civil fines. To find out, the paper would have to pay more than $400 so the city can afford to look through police records, according to the Shreveport Times.

Cover image: Two youths wear their pants with the underwear showing on April 23, 2009 in Riviera Beach, Florida. Recently Palm Beach Circuit Judge Paul Moyle ruled a Riviera Beach city law banning sagging pants is unconstitutional in the case of a 17-year-old who was arrested and held overnight in jail for breaking the law. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)