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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. He called our nation a nation of cowards because we didn't want to talk about race. That was a cheap shot coming from the top cop. The man who decides who gets the federal government indicts. Wow. Not a gentleman if that is the measure. More importantly, this insult delivered as we all understand, to white people-- without him or anybody needing to explain that is precisely what he meant-- but this is an insult to timid white persons who fear the government and don't want to say anything about race for fear of being accused a racist. With all the legal heat that can come down on somebody if they say something which can be construed by a prosecutor like Mr Holder as racist, is it any wonder white people-- that's who he meant obviously-- is there any surprise that white people don't want to talk about race? And as lawyers we have even less freedom lest our remarks be considered violations of the rules. Mr Holder also demonstrated his bias by publically visiting with the family of the young man who was killed by a police offering in the line of duty, which was a very strong indicator of bias agains the offer who is under investigation, and was a failure to lead properly by letting his investigators do their job without him predetermining the proper outcome. He also has potentially biased the jury pool. All in all this worsens race relations by feeding into the perception shared by whites as well as blacks that justice will not be impartial. I will say this much, I do not blame Obama for all of HOlder's missteps. Obama has done a lot of things to stay above the fray and try and be a leader for all Americans. Maybe he should have reigned Holder in some but Obama's got his hands full with other problelms. Oh did I mention HOlder is a bank crony who will probably get a job in a silkstocking law firm working for millions of bucks a year defending bankers whom he didn't have the integrity or courage to hold to account for their acts of fraud on the United States, other financial institutions, and the people. His tenure will be regarded by history as a failure of leadership at one of the most important jobs in our nation. Finally and most importantly besides him insulting the public and letting off the big financial cheats, he has been at the forefront of over-prosecuting the secrecy laws to punish whistleblowers and chill free speech. What has Holder done to vindicate the rights of privacy of the American public against the illegal snooping of the NSA? He could have charged NSA personnel with violations of law for their warrantless wiretapping which has been done millions of times and instead he did not persecute a single soul. That is a defalcation of historical proportions and it signals to the public that the government DOJ under him was not willing to do a damn thing to protect the public against the rapid growth of the illegal surveillance state. Who else could have done this? Nobody. And for that omission Obama deserves the blame too. Here were are sliding into a police state and Eric Holder made it go all the faster.

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  4. I grew up on a farm and live in the county and it's interesting that the big industrial farmers like Jeff Shoaf don't live next to their industrial operations...

  5. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

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