INDIANAPOLIS — A Greenfield police officer has won his lawsuit against the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, which was court-ordered this week to renew the officer’s controversial “0INK” vanity plate.
Rod Vawter, a third-shift patrol officer, had displayed the plate on his Chevrolet Malibu for more than three years before, he said, officials at the BMV suddenly refused to allow him to renew the plate, calling it offensive.
That came as a surprise to Vawter, who said he was just poking fun at being called a “pig,” a derogatory term for a police officer. Vawter’s wife drives the car and doesn’t have any problem with the plate, either, he said.
“Everybody finds it humorous because I kind of wear that with some degree of pride,” he said. “As law enforcement officers, it’s a joke.”
Marion County Judge James Osborn agreed, ruling Wednesday that Indiana officials violated Vawter’s constitutional rights by revoking the plate.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana represented Vawter in the lawsuit, arguing the BMV’s decision had infringed on Vawter’s right to freedom of speech.
The BMV stopped offering vanity plates last July until the case was decided. Vawter was allowed to continue displaying the plate until the case was decided.
Osborn has ordered the BMV to immediately reinstate the vanity plate program.
That came as a relief to Vawter, who said the BMV’s decision to suspend the program had put undue pressure on him.
Vawter said he filed the lawsuit because the BMV’s decision to revoke the plate seemed arbitrary after three years of approving the text.
“They still, even in depositions, couldn’t give a reason,” he said.
Vawter said the Osborn’s decision wasn’t a surprise, because Vawter felt he was making a common-sense argument.
“I really felt the judge would rule in my favor,” he said.
A BMV spokesman didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment Thursday.
The case is among several cases involving vanity plates across the country. The New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled Wednesday in favor of a man with a “COPSLIE” plate.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.