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Article posted Apr 18 2010, 12:11 AM Category: Resistance Source: The Kansas City Star Print

To man who flipped off Olathe police, a bird in the hand is worth four grand


Scott Schaper wasn’t happy when he got a ticket in Olathe. He struck back by flashing the officer the finger and giving voice to the gesture.

That got him another ticket for disorderly conduct. And now it has made him $4,000 richer.

City prosecutors dropped the disorderly conduct ticket and Olathe last week agreed its insurance company would pay $4,000 to Schaper and $1,000 to his lawyers, the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and Western Missouri.

Yes, it turns out, people can legally use the f-word against police and also extend what the law calls the “digitus impudicus” — the impudent finger.

As part of the out-of-court settlement of Schaper’s civil rights complaint, Olathe police also must train officers to take such abuse.

Schaper, who lives in Overland Park, dished it out last September after an Olathe police officer gave him a ticket for failure to yield.

He got frustrated because he was taking his children to school and the traffic stop caused them to cry, said Doug Bonney, legal director for the local ACLU chapter.

Schaper could not be reached Thursday.

Courts nationwide have long held that when it comes to such police cases, the word and the finger express discontent or frustration and are protected by the First Amendment, Bonney said. Police departments sometimes learn that the hard way.

In words that ring as a warning, Bonney said: “This is one of my favorite cases. I love the right to cuss.”

Bonney also cites a study on flipping the bird, which some call the most common and longest-lived insult in humanity’s history. Even the ancient Greeks wrote about it.

And now Olathe policymakers will have to write about it, too.

“We will learn from it and go forward,” said Olathe city spokesman Tim Danneberg.

While people can do such things, he said, “I don’t think it makes it appropriate for them to treat anyone that way.”

Will the case lead to less civility toward Olathe police?

“I would say it’s Olathe, Kansas,” said Danneberg, meaning that most people in the city won’t behave like that.

Olathe came out far better than Pittsburgh did in a similar case settled last year.

The Pennsylvania city paid $10,000 to a citizen ticketed for giving a police officer the finger and $40,000 more to the ACLU for legal work. In that case, the citizen flipped off a Pittsburgh officer who had told him to stop giving the finger to another driver.

Prairie Village’s police chief, Wes Jordan, the outgoing president of an association of Johnson County police chiefs and the sheriff, said of such abuse: “We have to just swallow it.”

Not that they like the taste.

“It’s unfortunate there are not repercussions on certain types of behavior that do not meet society norms,” he said. “What would the citizens think if the officer flipped them off?”

While police have to take it, don’t raise your middle finger or use the f-word to a judge in a courthouse.

That can easily get you jailed for contempt.

But even in courthouses there are shades of gray.

In a landmark 1971 case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a California judge could not find a man in contempt for wearing a jacket that said: “F*** the draft.”

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Comments 1 - 6 of 6 Add Comment Page 1 of 1

Posted: Apr 19 2010, 6:10 AM

7581 For those unfamiliar with the area - Olathe, Prairie Village, and Overland Park are all suburbs of Kansas City and within a few miles of each other.

Wes Jordan says "We just have to swallow [the disrespect]". This is coming from the Chief of Police of the same force that recently killed Susan Stuckey as highlighted on this very site. ( How dare you? God forbid one of us disobeys an officer. We have to swallow the fact that one of you is likely to harass us, beat us, or even kill us; for simply not obeying when you over-reach your authority.

Quit playing the victim. It's clear the citizens are the real victims these days. Poor little police officer got flipped off. Do you actually believe that tripe or are you just trying to pull one over? Do you have any integrity left? If you still think you're one of the "good guys" you should check yourself. Your belligerent thugs scare me far more than any so-called terrorist ever did.

Wes Jordan also rhetorically asks, “What would the citizens think if the officer flipped them off?”.
If one of your officers gives me the bird Mr. Jordan, I will think "Oh shit! I hope he doesn't kill me!" The escalation of force in the Stuckey case is outrageous and unacceptable. In the spirit of Danneberg's comment, "This is Prairie Village, KS." Why are you calling a SWAT team on a lone woman? Are you guys really that cowardly?

Maybe you should be asking a different question - "What would the citizens think if they knew the officer was willing to kill them with no good reason?" Maybe you should spend less time persuading citizens to be subservient ("polite") and more time thinking about the poor training and deadly abuse of authority in which your officers are involved.

Posted: Apr 19 2010, 7:23 AM

It's too bad people have the right to disrespect people they don't respect, yeah.

Police brutality will escalate until such time that people are afraid to do anything but bow down their heads in front of them so as to not to look at their "superiors" in the eye. Even cases like this add in the accumulative effect because of the trouble people have to go through to get any justice in the matter.
Sovereign Citizens LLC.

Posted: May 16 2010, 4:29 PM

98228 The Man does have the right to flip off anybody. I am not saying its tactful. But he has the right to be an a*shole. Especially to a cop whos only pulling him over because "its his job" to enforce dumb traffic laws that the politicians make that go agents out Constitutional Rights, just so the city, county, and state can make extra monies off peoples "Mistakes". I can totally understand if the driver effected another driver physically, then those monies should go to the effected victim. Not government(s) for doing abosolutly nothing. But majority of traffic stops are victimless "crimes". This citizen was ticketed for failure to yield. Not anything about hitting a vehicle, person, etc. "Failure to yield" does not sound like he harmed someone. I diddnt look like the "Yield Sign" that he diddnt "obey" diddnt make a comment above, so I dont know if the yield sign was harmed by his actions. I am just not up on governments having financial gain on ones mistake, or mis fortune when there is no victim. In that frustration he flicked off the cop for "doing his job" and not having any common sense for the cop using his own brain to think and figure out that the driver should not have been ticketed, and I took an oath of office to uphold the Constitution for the United States. And no where in that Consitiution does it allow Government to charge citizens, sums of money for mistakes, or victimless crimes. Only murders (killing a person), rapes, assults on people or living things, (off the top of my head) should only be "crimes". Government need to make small things crimes so they can inflate their budgets for all the departments, law enforcement, and their programs that citizens dont want. Out of control government spending and corruption needs to be funded some how.

Posted: Nov 08 2010, 3:24 PM

99224 what about a traffic stop could possibly make children cry? bunch of weenies. were they on their way to the ice cream store just before it closed FOREVER? oh no
James Smith

Posted: Aug 17 2014, 12:45 PM

179183 I am surprised the prosecutor even considered pressing this.

It has already been established through legal precedent the the gesture and even the words fall under the protection of Free Speech. They are lucky that they gor off for only the $5,000.00 total.
Guillermo E. Luna

Posted: Aug 27 2014, 1:18 AM

72128 I got away with much worse, yelling at the police officer for being corrupt, reminding him that I went to law school and that he didn't yada yada yada. Sometimes these thugs have to be reminded that this is a free country. Officers on the corner of 75th & Mission need to be reminded that this does NOT give them the freedom to pick our pockets!
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