LAUREL, Mississippi –The Laurel Police Department and Mayor Johnny Magee are asking residents to pull up their pants when in public.
The city bought 50 signs to put up across town, with the intent to educate young adults about dressing professionally.
Mayor Magee and Police Chief Tyrone Stewart put up the first “Pull up your pants” sign in front of the Laurel municipal court.
Magee said he’s seen baggy pants as an issue since he was a councilperson. Now he says he’s working with the city attorney to follow about a dozen other cities in Mississippi and Louisiana and create a “saggy pants ordinance.”
“We’re trying to bring awareness to our young people to pull up your pants. No one wants to see your underwear,” Chief Stewart said.
“We want people’s minds to be on this,” Magee said. “You open doors going into stores now, and you’ve got ‘please pull up your pants before you come in. If you don’t pull up your pants, don’t come in.’ It shouldn’t be that way.”
Stewart says he thinks the department is filling an educational gap.
“A lot of times, I really don’t think they have somebody in their lives that is just being honest and telling them the truth,” he said.
But both he and Magee say they’re working with the city attorney to draft a so called “saggy pants ordinance.”
“She has some concerns about the constitutionality of it if somebody chose to challenge it, but we’re going to get there,” he said.
Hinds County proposed a similar ordinance in 2012 that was followed with protests by the ACLU of Mississippi.
“Banning saggy pants in public is an affront to the Constitution and puts people at risk of being arrested for behavior that offends some people’s sensibilities, but is not criminal,” the ACLU-MS said in a 2012 statement. “The impact of ordinances like the proposed saggy pants ban in Hinds County will be far reaching: it gives police the opportunity to stop and search people, even if the officers have no reason to believe they have committed any wrongdoing apart from a ‘fashion crime.'”
Stewart says if someone is showing skin while wearing saggy pants, it could be considered indecent exposure.
“Now everybody wants to be able to walk around anyway they want to, and they say it’s their freedom. And that is true, but the revolutionary fathers, those are not the freedoms they were talking about. They were talking about things like freedom of religion, freedom of the press freedom of assembly. Those kinds of things, not freedom to be half naked in public.”
But the bottom line?
“If you walk around in Laurel, pull you pants up,” he said.
Stewart said the department did use taxpayer money to purchase the signs. He says even though there isn’t an ordinance to enforce, he says the education and awareness means it was “tax money that’s well spent.”
Magee says there’s no timeline for when a saggy pants ordinance could become a reality.