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Ocean City Beach Patrol Instructed Not To Bother Topless Women

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- The Ocean City Beach Patrol has been told not to bother women who go topless on the beach.

Those guidelines were sent to employees in a memo from Beach Patrol Capt. Butch Arbin this week.

The policy -- which instructs employees to document instances of female toplessness but not to approach the woman in question -- has reportedly been in effect since May 20.

This comes after a woman who advocates for ladies being allowed to go topless in public contacted the Worcester County State's Attorney's office about the legality of bare-chested females last year.

"It's not actually written or codified there is no book that has a definition of what is and what isn't indecent exposure and that's the reason there's an ambiguity," said legal expert Adam Ruther. "She's raising an argument that because men are allowed to go bare-chested so are women should be allowed to go bare-chested"

The Associated Press identified that Eastern Shore woman as Chelsea Covington, a national advocate for the "topfreedom" movement.

At that time, Worcester County AG Beau Oglesby ran the matter up the flagpole, requesting an opinion from Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh.

A spokesperson for Ocean City says they are still waiting for the opinion, but the mayor and city council are "strongly opposed" and are exploring what legal actions they can take to prevent topless women on the beach.

Ocean City Police said they'll address concerns on a case by case basis.

"It's really based on the particular situation and how it's presented to us," Ocean City police said.

Maryland is one of several states with ambiguous topless laws. Some cities like Austin, Texas, Boulder, Colorado, and Madison, Wisconsin have what's known as "top freedom."

Some fear the family friendly feel of Ocean City could be in jeopardy if toplessness becomes the norm.

"The beach is something that we're trying to incorporate as a family," one beach visitor said. "It would turn us away and we would just go elsewhere."

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