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Full council pledges to support new saggy pants ordinance

After several delays, the Cairo City Council finally had the opportunity Monday night to discuss a proposed ordinance outlawing saggy pants, but not with both the municipal court judge and police chief.
Municipal Court Judge Joshua C. Bell in a letter dated Oct. 12 wrote informing the council it would be inappropriate for him to offer an opinion on pending legislation.
Judge Bell wrote, “It would be improper for me to comment and certainly improper for me to express an opinion as to the viability and constitutionality of any proposed ordinance.” He went on to write, “I believe any such opinion would be a direct violation of the law and the Judicial Code of Conduct.”
Cairo Police Chief Keith Sandefur, however, did meet with the city council this week to discuss the proposed ordinance.
The police chief pledged to support the ordinance and to enforce it with a single condition – that it is supported by the full city council.
Chief Sandefur said the Cairo Police Department would enforce the ordinance, but would not “be sidetracked to go arrest someone with baggy pants.”
Mayor Pro Tem James H. (Jimmy) Douglas noted that several communities in the area have ordinances similar already on the books, but questioned if they are enforced.
Chief Sandefur said he had talked with officials in Bainbridge, where Judge Bell also serves as the municipal court judge, and officials there indicated officers routinely write numerous citations for violations of the saggy pants ordinance.
“This is something I brought up that has a very negative impact on parts of our community. It is time to consider making some changes in a positive way. I have discussed it with the chief and other members of the police department. There have been strong feelings expressed from others in the community who have said it is time to do something about this problem,” Mayor Richard VanLandingham said.
Mayor Pro Tem Douglas reminded the city council the police cannot do anything about people wearing saggy pants who are on private property. “Where I see most of it is at Walmart and McDonalds. We can’t do anything about that,” Douglas said.
“But we can keep it out of our parks, on our sidewalks and in the major sections of town,” the mayor said.
Douglas said he was not convinced the police department has the time to enforce a saggy pants ordinance, but he wanted to hear from Councilmen Ernest Cloud and Lannis Thornton on the ordinance.
“A lot of my people want it. They are tired of seeing pants down. It is disrespectful. I would have to vote for it. The people in my district want to see the pants pulled up,” Councilman Cloud said.
Councilman Thornton was away on business Monday night, but Cloud said they had talked and he also favors adoption of the ordinance.
The proposed ordinance is patterned after similar ordinances adopted by the city councils of Albany, Bainbridge, Dawson and Donalsonville.
According to the proposed new ordinance, “It shall be unlawful for any person to appear in public wearing pants, shorts, or skirts more than three inches below the top of the hips (crest of the ilium) exposing the skin or undergarments.”
Law enforcement officers will instruct violators to pull up their pants, shorts or skirts and, if they comply, the warning will be the penalty for the violation. Failure to comply will result in a minimum $25 fine and subsequent violations will carry a fine of not more than $200 for each subsequent offense.
City Manager Chris Addleton says the proposed new ordinance goes beyond saggy britches and strengthens other sections of the city’s disorderly conduct ordinance.
Chief Sandefur said police officers will issue a warning to violators once the ordinance is adopted. Then, on the first offense, a citation is written and the fine is $25. The police chief said for subsequent violations it would be up to the judge, but the fine could be anywhere up to $200.
The ordinance was introduced Monday night and, in accordance with the city’s charter, the new law will be voted on at the Nov. 12 council meeting.
Councilman Kermit Gilliard notified his fellow councilmen that he would be absent for the Nov. 12 meeting, but to know that he is in support of adopting the new ordinance when it comes up for a vote in three weeks.

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