BRIGHTON, Mich. (USA TODAY) — A teen learned the hard way that swearing near a local playground can bring costly consequences.
Colin Andersen, 19, was hanging out with his friends on a sunny April day in a parking lot next to a pavilion at the Imagination Station play area when his friend was ticketed for skateboarding in downtown Brighton and told to leave. Andersen said he was simply venting when he said, "This is f------ bull----."
He said he swore under his breath and no children heard him.
However, a Brighton Police Department officer heard him and issued him a ticket for disorderly conduct.
"What got me to start arguing a little bit, they were asking all of us to leave because he got a ticket," Andersen said. "That's not fair. We're just standing around."
Brighton Police Chief Tom Wightman said it's OK for teenagers to hang out downtown, and the city doesn't have a law prohibiting certain words.
"That's fine if they want to behave and use the facility like anybody else," Wightman said. "It's when they misbehave (that) it becomes an issue. We're going to be watching."
Wightman said the playground is popular, especially with families and young children. Sometimes, police are called due to teenagers or young adults acting disorderly.
"That's what gets on our radar, their behavior," he said.
Wightman said teenagers hanging out downtown is an "ongoing issue."
Andersen said this was the first ticket he's ever received; he said he doesn't even have a speeding ticket.
Andersen fought the ticket but lost when he went before a Livingston County District Court magistrate to present his side of what happened. He was fined $200.
Andersen said he doesn't think it was right to issue him a ticket without a warning. If he had been warned, he would have listened to the officer.
"I would have respected his authority," he said.
At the hearing, Andersen said the police testified they had given him a warning, something he denies happened.
"I don't think I deserve this ticket," he said. "I don't think I did anything wrong."
Andersen said children were not close by, and he wasn't loud when he said the profanity.
Wightman chuckled when asked to respond to Andersen's claim that he said the profanity "under his breath."
"That would require an officer with some incredible hearing," Wightman said.
Wightman said city ordinances prohibit disorderly conduct, including language that causes a breach of the peace. He said the conduct must be considered within the totality of the circumstances in which it occurs. He said the offensive language was used in the "immediate vicinity of a municipal playground occupied by very young children."
"The Brighton Police Department is particularly committed to the protection of young children who are attempting to enjoy our wonderful downtown park and playground," he said. "Older teens and young adults who choose to 'hang out' near the children's area need to know that their conduct will be carefully scrutinized."
Andersen said he argued with the officer because he didn't understand why he and his friends were told to leave the downtown area.
"We just like to hang out," he said, adding the downtown is convenient because it's a central place.
He also figured expressing his opinion was allowed in this country.
However, he admitted his parents suggested a different approach.
"It's a bad idea to argue with cops," he recalled them telling him.