Collinsville’s City Council repealed the “sagging pants” ordinance, introduced in 2011 and which was never enforced.
The ordinance required people on public property, including streets and sidewalks, to be “properly attired.” It threatened violators with a $100 citation and up to 40 hours of community service a first offense, and $300 for every subsequent offense.
Despite its passage, the ordinance drew opposition from the beginning, including from the former city manager and police chiefs.
Then-City Manager Robert Knabel said in a memo to the mayor, “One of the unintended consequences of this ordinance is the time that police officers and the courts will be taking to enforce this while greater issues are out there to be faced.
“Is the showing of the underwear and undergarments indecent? How are sagging pants different from the low riding jeans or hip huggers that allow just the tops of the underwear to show? Do we enforce the ‘plumber’s crack’?” he wrote.
Former Collinsville Police Chief Scott Williams said at the time he opposed the measure, said he wouldn’t enforce it, and expressed worry that it would open the police department to legal liabilities and bad public opinion. Williams, who also is a former city manager, declined to comment.
The ordinance and its possible racial implications was the subject of a legal publication.
“Popular culture examples suggest that the sagging pants trend is more often associated with African-Americans than caucasians,” Lindsey Hallam and Leslie Warren, who both graduated from the Southern Illinois University School of Law in May 2010, wrote in “Illinois Lawyer Now,” a publication of the Illinois State Bar Association in spring 2012.
Hallam and Warren debated whether the ordinance violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which prevents discrimination on the basis of race. Although the ordinance didn’t reference African-Americans explicitly, that wouldn’t save it from an equal protection challenge, they wrote. Ultimately, however, they concluded that although the ordinance could survive such a challenge, it would have a harder time surviving a challenge based on the First Amendment.
Despite all the hoopla surrounding the law, police never wrote a single citation for it, according to Collinsville City Councilman David Jerome, who led the repeal effort.
Elizabeth Dalton, a Madison County Board member who sponsored the measure as a former Collinsville councilwoman, could not be reached for comment.
The repeal, done during Monday night’s meeting, is effective immediately.