A Pittsburgh lawyer says local cops were wrong to charge a woman who complained ” I’m a fucking passenger,” during a traffic stop.
“Nobody likes to get sworn at, but you can’t make it a crime,” Witold Walczak, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Foundation of Pennsylvania, claimed. Walczak is also disputing the legality of charges against a woman who was “swearing profanities to a companion in front of the Girl Scouts” and a man who “engaged in loud noise, racial slurs and pig remarks.”
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Pittsburgh police charged 188 people with disorderly conduct for swearing, making obscene gestures and being disrespectful to police between March 1, 2005, and Oct. 31, 2007. The charges were discovered after the Pennsylvania ACLF filed a Right to Know request pursuant to a federal lawsuit.
The federal suit was filed on behalf of David Hackbart, who was charged with disorderly conduct after he allegedly flipped off another driver and then a Pittsburgh police sergeant. Pittsburgh police maintain that Hackbart was only charged with blocking traffic, not for annoying a policeman.
Before the Right to Know request was filed, Pittsburgh police had told the court that only one person had been charged with disorderly conduct for an obscene gesture in the last three years.
In 2002, a Pittsburgh man sued the city and was awarded $3,000 for malicious prosecution after being charged with disorderly conduct for cursing at police officers during a traffic dispute.
Pittsburgh city attorney Michael Kennedy could not comment because Hackbart’s suit is still before the court. He also was ethically prohibited from speculating on the police underestimation by 18,700 percent of the number of such cases that are actually prosecuted in Pittsburgh.
Walczak said the volume of the citations proved the Pittsburgh PD had failed to adequately teach its officers what actually was and was not illegal in the United States of America.