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Sticker leads to ACLU lawsuit

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A Franklin woman thought she had gone through a red light or forgotten to use a turn signal when a police officer stopped her on her way to work.

But it was her bumper sticker — not her driving — that led to two officers stopping her at a downtown Indianapolis parking garage. That traffic stop is now the subject of a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, saying Pamela Konchinsky’s rights were violated.

On June 17, two Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers stopped her for about 10 minutes, checked her license and registration and told her to remove a sticker that said “Unmarked Police Car” from her back window, Konchinsky said.

Officers said she needed to take the sticker down because someone could think she was impersonating an officer or someone who didn’t like police might shoot at her minivan, she said. The incident made her late for work that morning.

Konchinsky took down the sticker that morning and hasn’t put it back up in her van since. She called the Indianapolis chief of police to discuss the incident, but the call was never returned. After that, she contacted the ACLU to make them aware of what happened, she said.

Being stopped for a bumper sticker was absurd, and Konchinsky said the sticker had never been an issue.

No one would reasonably look at her Toyota minivan and assume it’s a police vehicle, she said. The officers didn’t mention or have a problem with the other sticker on her van that says “I make friends with salad,” she said.

“I thought somebody just needs to know simply because you have on a uniform and you have flashing lights, you cannot pull over people who have done nothing,” Konchinsky said. “It’s just totally ridiculous.”

Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, arguing that police violated Konchinsky’s First Amendment right of free speech and Fourth Amendment right protecting against unreasonable search and seizure, according to a news release.

The ACLU wants a judge to issue an injunction, which would essentially tell officers it is not OK to stop people a vehicle because of a bumper sticker expressing free speech, American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana staff attorney Kelly Eskew said.

The suit also seeks monetary damages since the traffic stop made Konchinsky late for work and caused her to lose wages. The ACLU is working with the police department to try to identify the two officers who stopped Konchinsky’s van before arguing the case before a judge, Eskew said.

“It’s just a funny bumper sticker, and perhaps everybody doesn’t find it funny. And I certainly don’t assume that every officer with the department has the same politics and opinions. I don’t want the officer behind me to make judgments about my bumper stickers,” Eskew said. “She’s a nice lady. She’s a working mom. She just wants to go to work and be able to park her car.”

Calls made to the to the Indianapolis corporation counsel office and Indianapolis Metropolitation Police Department on Wednesday were not returned.

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