Safe to sag? Lafayette council committee shelves idea of regulating low-riding pants _lowres

Advocate staff photo by LESLIE WESTBROOK -- A sign informing customers of the sagging pants policy is on display in a front window of Breaux's Mart Wednesday, June 8, 2016, in Lafayette, La.

Sagging pants are legal fashion for the foreseeable future in Lafayette.

The City-Parish Council Public Safety Committee took up the issue Wednesday but opted against any effort to regulate low-riding pants that expose skin or underwear.

“I can only imagine someone calling 911 and saying, ‘Someone is walking by my house sagging,’ ” Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux said.

Boudreaux said he brought up the topic because he has received increasing complaints about sagging from community members who find low-riding pants distasteful and disrespectful.

But the councilman said he feels uneasy about legislating how people dress and is hesitant to follow the lead of other cities and parishes in the state that have made wearing sagging pants in public a criminal offense — laws passed despite concerns raises by the American Civil Liberties Union and others about racial profiling and freedom of expression.

Interim Police Chief Reginald Thomas shared those concerns.

“This basically would hurt us,” Thomas said. “To me, you have to be careful because it could be profiling.”

Councilwoman Liz Hebert noted a potential fairness issue.

“Imagine the outcry if you told a woman, ‘You can’t wear short shorts,’ ” she said.

Police Maj. Luranie Richard summed up the irony of the divergent trends: “They (men) buy their clothes too big, and on the opposite side, the women wear their clothes too small.”

Laws against sagging pants were a trend a few years ago, when a string of cities and parishes passed anti-sagging measures, including Crowley, Ville Platte, Iberville Parish and Terrebonne Parish. Fines can rise as high as $1,000 for a third offense.

The state Legislature twice considered but ultimately rejected state laws to ban sagging pants, once in 2004 and again in 2010, when the proposal was revived by former Lafayette state Rep. Rickey Hardy.

Thomas said the issue might best be addressed by business owners, who are free to develop their own dress codes.

“That can easily be enforced by their security,” the chief said.

Councilman Jay Castille said perhaps neighborhood groups could be encouraged to install their own signs.

He suggested something along the lines of, “Pick up your damn pants.”