However ill-advised and rude, flipping off a cop is not a crime, according to a 2013 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling.
According to Rock Hill police, it is. Or at least it’s a good enough reason to effect a traffic stop on the perpetrator.
On Sept. 1, officers arrested 20-year-old Michael Douglas after one of Rock Hill’s finest said Douglas pulled up beside her at a red light and used a single-finger universal gesture to impart his feelings to her. According to The Herald of Rock Hill, the officer followed Douglas into a parking lot to “investigate” whether he was under the influence of something or having mental health issues.
This investigation led to Douglas’ arrest and the arrest of Douglas’ passenger, a woman whom cops said refused to identify herself.
Douglas was charged with disorderly conduct, resisting police and possession of marijuana, records show.
In the 2013 federal case, the arresting officer claimed he stopped the vehicle after witnessing the one-finger salute because it appeared as if the man was “trying to get my attention for some reason” — well, yeah — or perhaps the female driver was involved in a domestic dispute.
The judge, however, found that to be hogwash, opining that this “ancient gesture of insult” was clearly no signal for help and that no one planning to harm another occupant of the vehicle would call attention to himself by flipping off a policeman.
The best thing to do, the judge wrote, is to “leave [the gesture] without a response than to lend judicial approval to the stopping of every vehicle from which a passenger makes that gesture.”
A Rock Hill Police Department spokesman, Capt. Mark Bollinger, said the officer may have also had other reasons for the stop that “weren’t articulated in the report.”
“That will all come out in court,” Bollinger said.
Sidebar offered—as a quip not to be construed as legal advice—that any contention that Douglas was asking for police intervention might be met with a healthy dose of dubiety.