UPDATE: After using Facebook to attack KTVT’s report about Jessica Curs, now it appears that the Alvarado Police Department has shut down its page. In all likelihood, they did not get the expected response after posting their entire side of the story including the admission of a highly illegal arrest for censorship.
The sports our children play often generate passion among parents.
Few places exemplify the parent/child bond through sports like Texas, but now the police have stepped in and penalized a 32-year-old suburban wife and mother named Jessica Curs in a town just south of Dallas called Alvarado.
Alvarado Police Captain Gary Melson, the second-highest ranking member of the department, believed his rank gave him the authority to censor free speech in a public fora.
So the Texas police captain arrested Curs for saying “Dick” in public while coaching a basketball game between 9-year-olds in a public school gym – an allegation that Curs and the game’s referee deny ever took place.
But even if she had said the word “dick” in public, she still would not have broken the law, making the arrest a blatant form of censorship – an act that his own department admitted to earlier today in a long and winding statement on its Facebook page with the dramatic headline:
*warning, language may not be suitable for everyone*
Indeed, in Texas, the use of free speech or expressive behavior in public, and especially near the sensitive ears of cops, is a leading indicator of one’s likelihood to being arrested as you can see from another PINAC story this week in Texas.
In its statement, Alvarado police claimed they had probable cause to arrest Curs because she yelled the word, “dick” very loudly leading to an uproar from the crowd.
Curs screamed out a profanity, namely using the word “dick”, in front of bleachers full of parents and kids.
This action caused numerous parents to rise to their feet and began confronting Curs, complaining, and demanding action from APD Capt. Melson. Capt. Melson approached Curs and instructed her to step outside the area of play to deescalate the situation. This is where the matter could have been resolved with Curs being told to refrain from using profane language in public.
Capt. Melson asked Curs three times, showed her his badge/department identification card, told her he was a police officer, and that she needed to step aside and speak with him.
Curs committed the offense of disorderly conduct
But the state’s definition of disorderly conduct, specifically Texas Statute 42.01, states that words alone are insufficient to give police officers powers to censor.
In order to justify a disorderly conduct arrest, those profane words must “incite an immediate breach of the peace.”
Fortunately, in 1988 the Attorney General for Texas provided a durable legal opinion clearing up this flowery turn of phrase narrowly defining the words to constitute: “Fighting Words” which is summarized:
Article 42.01(a)(1) of the Penal Code applies only to speech which as a matter of fact constitutes “fighting words.” As a matter of law, the statute does not reach speech that merely causes public inconvenience, annoyance, or unrest. “Fighting words” are words which would likely cause an average addressee to fight. An “average addressee” is not someone either overly sensitive or overly inured to the speech in question.
Merely causing public unrest is specifically excluded from the opinion, which likely ends any case that Alvarado police might or should have against Curs.
However, the police department’s own public admission seals the deal.
Alavarado police continued in withering defense of their second-in-command, Captain Melson stating: (ed. note underlining is our emphasis)
This incident seems to be on par with Curs’ past and the environment she thrives in. Chants of “fuck you Alvarado” could be heard from the facility as the teams left. As with most cases, the person at fault here is Curs and Curs directed her own path which resulted in her subsequent arrest and pending court case.
With that tacit admission that the offensive language was not annoying to the present crowd, and furthermore that Curs’ speech was censored for its content and whom it offended, rather than having offense on its face.
This is the anatomy of a First Amendment rights violation by police.
Police are not allowed to censor familiar speech in a public place. And though some parents thought Curs was out of line, Melson had no business using his badge to draw the line, unless Curs was seeking specifically to start a fight with a member of the public.
Clearly, this case contains no fighting words, just illegal restrictions on free speech by a police officer – a captain, no less – who should know better than to act like the thought police or use his badge to settle social disputes during sports games involving children.
The charges pending against Curs should be immediately dropped by Johnson County Texas State’s Attorney Bill Moore as soon as possible.