Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Judge Rules: "It's OK To Give Police The Finger"

By Torsten Ove, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Memo to cops everywhere: You can't cite someone for giving you the finger.

That's essentially what a federal judge ruled yesterday when he said a city police sergeant was wrong to cite a Regent Square man for flipping him off in traffic three years ago.

U.S. District Judge David Cercone granted summary judgment to David Hackbart, who said in a federal suit that Sgt. Brian Elledge violated his constitutional rights by issuing him a citation in 2006.

"Elledge's response to Hackbart's exercise of his First Amendment right was to initiate a traffic stop and issue a citation for disorderly conduct," the judge wrote. "Clearly, Elledge's conduct was an adverse action in response to Hackbart flipping him off."

The case will now proceed to trial in U.S. District Court on the underlying claim that the city doesn't adequately train its officers to know when they're violating someone's rights.

The Supreme Court has consistently ruled that giving someone the finger, even a police officer, is protected free speech.

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