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ACLU sues 2 Indy police officers over car sticker

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An Indiana woman intended her bumper sticker reading "unmarked police car" as a joke, but two police officers didn't think it was funny. Now, they're being sued in federal court for allegedly violating the woman's free speech rights, and officials aren't laughing.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed the lawsuit last week on behalf of 56-year-old Pamela Konchinsky of Franklin. The complaint says Konchinsky was followed by two squad cars when she pulled into a parking garage near the mall where she works in downtown Indianapolis. The first car had its lights flashing. Konchinsky knew she hadn't violated any traffic laws.

The officers told her to remain in her minivan after asking for her license and registration, and then scolded her for the sticker taped in the rear window of her minivan.

One of the officers warned her during the June 17 incident that someone would think she was impersonating a police officer, and that someone might shoot at her, believing her to be an officer.

The bumper stickers proclaiming "unmarked police car" sell for $2.50 online. Konchinsky, the mother of one adult and one school-age child, works three jobs. She had received the sticker as a gift from a friend and taped it to the inside of her minivan's rear window about seven months ago.

"It's a joke — it's ironic," Kelly Eskew, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, told The Indianapolis Star. "It's like you or I wearing a T-shirt that says, 'Undercover cop.'"

But the officers took the issue seriously, and didn't allow Konchinsky to leave until she had removed the sticker from the window.

She didn't receive a citation, but the fuss made her late for work and her pay was docked as a result.

The lawsuit filed late last week claims the officers violated Konchinsky's First Amendment right to freedom of speech and her Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure.

Indianapolis corporation counsel Samantha DeWester said her office doesn't comment on pending litigation, but she did tell the Star that "We take every lawsuit against the city extremely seriously."

Indianapolis police spokesman Officer Chris Wilburn said police don't comment on pending litigation, either.

The complaint seeks to recover Konchinsky's lost wages and other costs, including legal fees.

"Ms. Konchinsky has not put the bumper sticker back on the minivan but wishes to do so as a humorous and ironic expression," the complaint reads.

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  • OK, Jose...
    Because a mini van with a bumper sticker taped to the inside rear window is a real threat to the community. I can see you saying that she would turn her van around and go in reverse really fast to catch up with perpetrators and instead of turning on her cherry's or wig wags, she'd instead point to the bumper sticker. Right?
  • inconsequential
    Maybe a bigger joke is how the ACLU picks its cases. Other than cases preventing Christians from exercising their religion, they mostly are about whining over trifling matters like this. Really, I don't disagree with the legal position, and will admit perhaps the cops erred, but ouch what a reply. Like hitting a fly with a sledgehammer. She didn't even get a ticket! Wow. Great topic for a lawsuit. NOT. ACLU has become a caricature of itself.
  • Cops
    I am with the Cops on this one. They could have been more subtle about the approach; but she (IMO) should not be able to have sign indicating she is police when she is not. just my opinion.

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  1. Applause, applause, applause ..... but, is this duty to serve the constitutional order not much more incumbent upon the State, whose only aim is to be pure and unadulterated justice, than defense counsel, who is also charged with gaining a result for a client? I agree both are responsible, but it seems to me that the government attorneys bear a burden much heavier than defense counsel .... "“I note, much as we did in Mechling v. State, 16 N.E.3d 1015 (Ind. Ct. App. 2014), trans. denied, that the attorneys representing the State and the defendant are both officers of the court and have a responsibility to correct any obvious errors at the time they are committed."

  2. Do I have to hire an attorney to get co-guardianship of my brother? My father has guardianship and my older sister was his co-guardian until this Dec 2014 when she passed and my father was me to go on as the co-guardian, but funds are limit and we need to get this process taken care of quickly as our fathers health isn't the greatest. So please advise me if there is anyway to do this our self or if it requires a lawyer? Thank you

  3. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  4. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  5. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

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