CLEVELAND » A suburban Cleveland man says police violated his First Amendment rights to free speech when they cited him for holding a sign warning motorists to turn if they wanted to avoid a drunken-driving checkpoint.
Douglas Odolecki, 43, warned motorists with the sign Friday night in Parma that said: "Check point ahead! Turn now!"
Parma police spokesman Kevin Riley said officers cited Odolecki after he refused to remove the "Turn now!" portion of the sign. Officers had previously consulted with city attorneys to determine if Odolecki violated any laws by displaying the sign, Riley said.
Odolecki plans to fight the citation for obstructing official business.
It’s not the first time Odolecki has used the sign or has gotten into trouble because of it. Parma police arrested him in September 2012 for having a knife in his pocket while holding the same sign. He pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and was sentenced to community service. Charges of carrying a concealed weapon and obstructing official business were dismissed.
Odolecki has made warning motorists of drunken-driving checkpoints his mission. He says he’ll go "anywhere I’m called, anywhere I’m needed, anywhere I see injustice happening."
He said he was a "hell-raiser" as a young man, but has stayed out of trouble the last 24 years. He conceded he has animosity toward police officers because they have hassled him numerous times he says for no reason.
Odolecki said he has used the sign to warn motorists about the checkpoints in his hometown of Parma on at least five occasions, in Columbus and several Cleveland suburbs. He said that since his arrest in 2012, he carries a video camera to record any interactions with police. A video of Friday’s incident showed that the officers were polite to him when they issued the citation.
"I bet if I wasn’t filming, I would have been in handcuffs," Odolecki said.
Attorney John Gold is representing Odolecki for free. Gold said police must alert the public in advance of setting up a drunken-driving checkpoint and that motorists are permitted to drive around them, which means Odolecki did nothing wrong when he held up the sign.