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Rachel Willis, a foster mother, spoke against the sagging pants law Tuesday before the law was abolished Sara Macneil, Shreveport Times

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SHREVEPORT, La. –  Doc Montgomery held up a bullet proof vest at the podium Tuesday before the Shreveport City Council in northwest Louisiana voted to repeal a law that allowed the police department to target and jail black men disproportionately.

“The blood is on our hands,” said Montgomery, a public defender for Caddo Parish in Louisiana, at the City Council meeting during public comment.

The Council voted 6-1 on Tuesday to abolish a 2007 sagging pants law that banned people from wearing pants below the waist line . 

Black men made up 96% of the 726 arrests for sagging pants in Shreveport since the law passed 2007, according to Shreveport Police Department data. A total of 699 black men were arrested for sagging as compared to the 12 white men that were arrested for sagging since the law passed more than a decade ago.

Last month, Shreveport City Councilwoman LeVette Fuller proposed to abolish the law.

Debate about the law evolved from an incident in which a police officer in Shreveport shot a black man in attempting to stop him because his pants were below waist line. The community has been expressing rage and distrust in the Shreveport Police Department, the coroner and the District Attorney's office for months after 31-year-old Anthony Childs died in an officer-involved shooting in February.

"Any problem the city has is our problem," Montgomery said.  "People think the government is this otherworldly body we can't touch but we are the government. The City Council represents the people."

In the discussion period before the council voted, Childs' sister addressed the room.

"I lost my brother. My nieces and nephew lost their father because of his pants. His pants were sagging. This officer chased him through a field because his pants were at a certain length," Anthony Childs' sister, Tyren Pucker, said.

Pucker gave Fuller a tearful hug and thanked her after the meeting. She also  said abolishing the law is a step in the right direction, but she still wants her brother's death investigation to be re-opened. 

"He's not a thug like they've made him out to be," Pucker said

Councilman James Green was a City Council member when the sagging ordinance passed. He expressed shame at having helped pass an ordinance that was enforced for an unintended purpose.

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There is still some question as to whether the Shreveport Police Department took anyone into custody solely for sagging pants, which would contradict the ordinance. The now-abolished law said people could be issued a summons for violating the ordinance, but were not supposed to be arrested or fully searched for violating the sagging pants ordinance.

According to ordinance 50-167  passed in 2007, violators of the law can be cited and summoned to court, but the legislation was passed with an amendment. The amendment specified that violation of the law "shall itself not be grounds for an arrest or for a full search of the persons cited." 

The police department would have to scour 726 reports to find out whether anyone was unjustly arrested.

In an email, Shreveport Police Chief Ben Raymond said he couldn't guarantee people weren't unjustly arrested.

"We cannot respond with complete accuracy because each individual report would have to be reviewed to determine if anybody had been booked into jail solely for violation of the ordinance regarding 'wearing pants below the waistline,' " Raymond said. "If anybody were booked for violation of that specific ordinance alone, that would have been a mistake. I cannot guarantee mistakes were not made without reviewing each report."

Raymond also said he couldn't state whether individuals were fully searched for sagging pants.

"Similarly, I cannot accurately state whether individuals were 'fully searched' based on the ordinance alone, although I can say that the ordinance specifically prohibits a search simply for violation of that ordinance," Raymond wrote. 

Follow The Shreveport Times on Twitter: @shreveporttimes.

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