Jacksonville’s enforcement of pedestrian violations raises concerns that it’s another example of racial profiling.
A Times-Union/ProPublica Investigation
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office issues hundreds of pedestrian citations a year, drawing on an array of 28 separate statutes governing how people get around on foot in Florida’s most populous city. There is, of course, the straightforward jaywalking statute, barring people from crossing against a red light. But in Jacksonville, pedestrians can also be ticketed for crossing against a yellow light, for “failing to cross a street at a right angle,” for not walking on the left side of a road when there are no sidewalks, or alternatively for not walking on a sidewalk when one is available.
However, a Florida Times-Union/ProPublicaanalysis of five years of pedestrian tickets shows there is no strong relationship between where tickets are being issued and where people are being killed. The number of fatal crashes involving pedestrians, in fact, climbed every year from 2012 to 2016, the most recent years for which complete data is available.
What the analysis does show is that the pedestrian tickets – typically costing $65, but carrying the power to damage one’s credit or suspend a driver’s license if unpaid – were disproportionately issued to blacks, almost all of them in the city’s poorest neighborhoods. In the last five years, blacks received 55 percent of all pedestrian tickets in Jacksonville, while only accounting for 29 percent of the population. Blacks account for a higher percentage of tickets in Duval County than any other large county in Florida.
Blacks, then, were nearly three times as likely as whites to be ticketed for a pedestrian violation. Residents of the city’s three poorest zip codes were about six times as likely to receive a pedestrian citation as those living in the city’s other, more affluent 34 zip codes.
Tickets for some of the less familiar statutes were issued even more disproportionately to blacks. Seventy-eight percent of all tickets written for “walking in the roadway where sidewalks are provided” were issued to blacks. As well, blacks accounted for 68 percent of all recipients of tickets issued for “failing to cross the road at a right angle or shortest route.”
John Fitzgerald Kendrick, a truck driver, got out of his truck after encountering Jacksonville sheriff’s officers in April of 2015. Once out of his truck, he was immediately ordered to the ground by an officer, who pointed a Taser gun at him. He was arrested and issued a ticket for “walking in the roadway where sidewalks are provided.” Kendrick fought the ticket and it was dismissed by a judge.
Brianna Nonord, 13, wound up in handcuffs and detained that same month in 2015 after she walked away from an officer trying to write her a ticket for having “failed to cross in crosswalk” on her way home from school.
Maurice Grant, a lawyer with the federal public defender’s office, was walking near the federal courthouse in May of 2016 when he was cited for crossing against a red light.
The Times-Union/ProPublica analysis also found that the sheriff’s office had issued hundreds of erroneous tickets for crossing the street while not in a crosswalk. The mistakes, identified by a detailed Times-Union/ProPublica review of the locations where the tickets were given, appear to have resulted from a misunderstanding of the statute on the part of the sheriff’s officers. The often misapplied crosswalk statute accounted for more tickets than any other, and again, blacks were over-represented in that category of ticket.
(From left) Director of Patrol & Enforcement Mike Bruno, Sheriff Mike Williams and Undersheriff Pat Ivey discuss jaywalking enforcement in Jacksonville with ProPublica’s Topher Sanders and Ben Conarck of The Florida Times-Union. (Bob Mack/Florida Times-Union)In interviews, the sheriff’s department’s second-in-command, Patrick Ivey, said any racial discrepancies could only be explained by the fact that blacks were simply violating the statutes more often than others in Jacksonville.
“Were the citations given in error?” Ivey asked. “I have nothing to suggest that. Were they given unjustified? I have nothing to suggest that.”
In response to the Times-Union/ProPublica findings, Sheriff Mike Williams said, “Let me tell you this: There is not an active effort to be in black neighborhoods writing pedestrian tickets.”
Ivey said stopping people for pedestrian violations as a means for establishing probable cause to search them was also fully justified.
“Shame on him that gives me a legal reason to stop him,” Ivey said.
Lots of police agencies across the country in recent years have been found to have improperly targeted African Americans and other minorities. The New Jersey State Police profiled minority drivers on the state’s highways. The New York Police Department’s policy of stop-and-frisk was declared unconstitutional by a federal judge after statistics showed minorities, while making up half the city’s population, accounted for 83 percent of all such encounters with police. Similar issues with stop-and-frisk practices have surfaced in Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Los Angeles.
Most recently, U.S. Department of Justice investigators found that police in Ferguson, Missouri, had been enforcing traffic violations and civil codes — high weeds in your yard was one of them – disproportionately against African-American residents to generate revenue for the city. Many of those ticketed wound up unable to pay, and, as a result, were cast into a cycle of debt and incarceration.
The issuing of pedestrian tickets in Jacksonville, a city of 880,000, does not produce large sums of money for the city’s coffers. There were slightly more than 2,200 tickets issued over the five years examined by the Times-Union and ProPublica, accounting for just under $70,000.
But the Times-Union/ProPublica analysis shows that more than half of the 2,200 pedestrian tickets from the past five years have not yet been resolved, meaning that the fines have not been paid or the cases adjudicated. Fines and fees associated with open cases are sent to collections agencies, and those whose cases were sent for collection can see their credit damaged. The tickets also can lead to suspensions or revocations of driver’s licenses. Even after the tickets are paid, the tickets can cost a person points on their driver’s license or commercial license, which is especially damaging for truck and bus drivers.
Kenneth Nunn, a law professor at the University of Florida, said the pedestrian ticket data in Jacksonville suggests a selective enforcement of the statutes that can feel like harassment for the communities being targeted.
“If we’re seeing searches on a broad basis that seem to be concentrated in poor black communities that suggests an ulterior motive for the searches that are ongoing,” Nunn said.
Such concerns – expressed in dozens of interviews with residents, defense lawyers, and a variety of legal experts – are only deepened by how infrequently it appears the issuing of tickets results in arrests for more serious crimes. Our examination of local court records turned up only 149 instances in which a pedestrian ticket written from 2012 to 2017 resulted in additional criminal charges. The review found that just 27 of those instances involved a gun charge, or 1.2 percent of all tickets written. (Under New York City’s stop-and-frisk enforcement, only 2 percent of stops resulted in arrests for weapons.)
Ojmarrh Mitchell, an associate professor in criminology at the University of South Florida, said the sheriff’s office’s claim that stopping people for pedestrian violations is an effective way to suppress crime is both unfounded and grimly familiar.
“You could stop anyone — in a car, on a bike, on foot — for breaking traffic laws because there are so many violations,” Mitchell said. “If you’re willing to follow someone for a couple of minutes, you’re going to find a reason to stop them.”
“Certain leaders, regardless of the evidence,” Mitchell added, “are going to employ these head-knocking strategies, even if they don’t work, and even if they alienate the community.”
Michael Anderson stands near where he was stopped by the Jacksonville Sheriffs Office on Bridier Street, on Jacksonville’s Eastside. At the time Anderson was visiting his mother in the neighborhood where he grew up and was walking to the store. (Bruce Lipsky/Florida Times-Union)Almost a third of all tickets issued in the years examined by the Times-Union and ProPublica went to African American males from age 14 to 35. Michael Anderson was one of them.
Anderson, then 29, said he was headed from his mother’s house to the grocery store on Jacksonville’s East Side last April when he was approached by three officers. Anderson said he was told he was jaywalking, asked for identification, and then threatened with being handcuffed for resisting arrest after he balked at an officer’s attempt to search him.
“I said, ‘Why are you all bothering me? You’re only harassing me because I’m a black male, with dreads in this high crime area,’” Anderson recalled telling the officers. “’If you check my I.D., you’ll see I grew up in this area.’”
Anderson contested the ticket for walking in a roadway where sidewalks are provided, and it was dismissed when none of the officers showed up for the hearing.
The more than 2,200 tickets examined by the Times-Union and ProPublica included all those written in Duval County. The total number of tickets included 311 written by agencies other than the Sheriff’s Office. Most of those were issued by the Florida Highway Patrol, which accounted for 199; a single ticket was given by the Florida Fish and Wildlife agency.
Looking only at tickets issued by the Sheriff’s Office, the percentage of tickets given to blacks – 59 percent – is higher than if tickets issued by all agencies are considered.
Mayor Lenny Curry would not comment on the racial disparities in pedestrian tickets found by the Times-Union and ProPublica.
Anna Brosche, president of the Jacksonville City Council, said she would review the Times-Union/ProPublica analysis. She said she did not want to prejudge the policies or conduct of the Sheriff’s Office.
“My next step would be to have a meeting with the sheriff to better understand the data you put forth and what it means to the overall operations of our city as it relates to public safety,” Brosche said.
Chapter 1. Death Trap
Year after year, Jacksonville has been ranked among the five most dangerous American cities for pedestrians. There were 30 deadly crashes involving pedestrians in 2012, increasing each year to 41 in 2016, the most recent year for which calendar data was available.
In 2015, the federal government took notice. The Federal Highway Administration identified Jacksonville as one of its “focus cities,” a designation that came with an offer of help in devising solutions. Jacksonville soon hired consultants to develop a plan of action for saving lives.
The consultants eventually produced a report titled “Pedestrian and Bicyclist Master Plan.” At its heart was a recognition that Jacksonville, built in the 1960s automobile boom and largely unchanged since, was its own kind of death trap. Highways and expressways constructed decades ago carved through low-income communities, sending high-speed traffic from the city’s downtown business district to the beaches, suburbs and affluent neighborhoods.
Communities along those arterial roads were left with treacherous four-lane thoroughfares that stretch for a half-mile or longer before offering crosswalks. Along Beach Boulevard, for instance, there’s one stretch where crosswalks are 1.3 miles apart. There are multiple low-income apartment complexes in between those crossings.
But the city’s issues for pedestrians went beyond its network of dangerous highways and broad avenues. Those who travel on foot in Jacksonville are faced with a disconnected network of sidewalks, which are often in disrepair. City officials haven’t even completely mapped all of them.
A JTA bus turns the corner of New Kings Road on to Gilchrist Road, on Saturday November 11, 2017 in Jacksonville, Florida, after picking up a rider at a bus stop with sidewalks. (Bruce Lipsky/Florida Times-Union)And while Jacksonville is the country’s largest city by land mass, its public transportation system has consistently been found wanting in national studies. People who rely on the bus system can put themselves in danger just trying to access their rides. The Jacksonville Transportation Authority, for example, has 321 bus stops on roads without sidewalks and 993 bus stops not within 300 feet of a crosswalk, according to the most recently available data.
The master plan developed by the consultants – aspects of which were regularly shared with city officials and the sheriff’s office — offered two essential means to cut civilian deaths: slow down traffic and build up pedestrian infrastructure like sidewalks and bus stops and formal crossings with crosswalks.
The plan also was emphatic about what wouldn’t work — trying to get pedestrians to behave more safely, and writing tickets in an attempt to compel them to do so.
No amount of education, encouragement, or enforcement will make a significant change in pedestrian behavior, the report concluded.
In an interview, Andy Clarke, the lead author of the plan, stood by the report.
“Trying to educate people to cross the road safely when there aren’t crosswalks or where there’s missing sidewalks,” Clarke said, “it just doesn’t work.”
He said ticketing pedestrians would not improve public safety, and that anything that didn’t involve addressing the city’s dangerous layout and lack of adequate infrastructure would certainly be seen as a cynical decision.
“It seems unfortunate to say the least, and capricious at worst, to be ticketing people for behavior when it just isn’t possible to do the right thing or be in the right place,” Clarke said.
Mayor Curry’s office said the administration plans to update its sidewalk inventory in 2019 to include more details about the nature of the infrastructure. The office also said that it has taken action to fund more signalized crosswalks in Jacksonville.
The Sheriff’s Office wrote 264 pedestrian tickets in 2012, 353 in 2013, 422 in 2014, 252 in 2015 and 411 in 2016. Jacksonville is ranked sixth among the state’s largest counties for the issuing of pedestrian tickets.
Ivey, the Sheriff’s Office’s second in command, defended the merits of writing tickets to help fight pedestrian fatalities. He said that unless and until the city spends the money on things like street design and more and better sidewalks, the office had no choice but to write tickets.
“I’ll throw a scenario out,” Ivey said. “A camera — I don’t care what camera, from convenience store, cell phone camera, I don’t care — catches a policeman sitting there watching people jaywalk all day long across the street, and he’s sitting right there. Then all of a sudden, a car comes along. Kid’s killed. What does the family say, you know? ‘Why didn’t the policeman stop them, tell them, give them a ticket? I don’t care. Why didn’t they do it?’”
“I think we have a duty to educate, warn, and enforce where appropriate until infrastructure is fixed,” Ivey added. “Otherwise, I think we’d be doing a disservice to the community.”
A couple of hours spent observing who jaywalks in Jacksonville suggests Ivey’s education effort should include his own officers. Over a two-day span, dozens of uniformed Jacksonville police officers were observed jaywalking downtown by ProPublica and Times-Union journalists.
Ivey and his boss, Sheriff Williams, said they could not comment or take action until they had seen evidence of the routine jaywalking by their officers.
Chapter 2. Tickets Don’t Make Sense, or Much of a Difference
In 2014, the Sheriff’s Office, bolstered by state grants from the Florida Department of Transportation, began implementing what it regarded as a strategic effort for issuing tickets in pursuit of greater public safety. It said it identified a variety of “data-driven hot spots” and deployed officers whose specific mission was to warn and ticket offenders in those danger zones. The office updated its targeted hot spots every year with the goal of reducing the number of pedestrian and bicycle accidents by 15 percent over three years.
But the identified hot spots don’t seem to really correlate with where deaths were happening. Seventeen percent of the 94 deadly crashes in subsequent years took place on streets identified by the sheriff’s office as locations at which they wanted to focus their ticket enforcement.
A broader look at the five years, 2012 to 2017, shows a similar disconnect between where pedestrian tickets were issued and where fatalities took place. Just one of the top six census tracts in Jacksonville for pedestrian deaths was among the top six for tickets. Indeed, one of the deadliest tracts – six deaths – saw just 10 tickets in five years. The neighborhood with the most tickets had just two deaths.
And while 25 percent of all deadly crashes occurred in majority-black census tracts, 40 percent of pedestrian tickets were given there. Six of the top 10 ticketed census tracts are majority black.
Williams and Ivey insisted the sheriff’s office’s ticketing had indeed been targeted at locations with greater numbers of deaths and serious accidents, but did not say what kind of data analysis had generated those locations. They said they would have to examine the Times-Union/ProPublica analysis before commenting in greater detail.
Billy Hattaway, considered by many to be the foremost expert in the state for pedestrian design, said that if one wants to cut pedestrian deaths, any proposed solution has to focus not on pedestrians but on motorists.
Eboni Dekine stands near where she received a jaywalking ticket near the intersection of Ricker Road and 103rd on Jacksonville’s westside. (Dede Smith/Florida Times-Union)Eboni Dekine was trying to cross Ricker Road on April 28, 2016. She had her 8-month-old and 10-year-old daughters in tow so she chose to go what she felt was the safest route. An officer stopped her and gave her a ticket for crossing outside the crosswalk.
Dekine doesn’t believe the ticket was about keeping her and her family safe.
“If they wanted to make people feel safe, they need to sit at these intersections and watch how many of these cars are running through these lights. People are getting scared just to cross the street the right way. I feel more endangered crossing in the crosswalk than I do the way I did that day. And that’s the honest to God truth.”
Chapter 3. Smart Policing or Selective Enforcement
In his more than two decades on the Jacksonville sheriff’s force, Patrick Ivey said it’s always been seen as legitimate to use a pedestrian violation as an opportunity to stop and question someone acting suspicious. The person might be behaving erratically or have an unusual bulge in their clothing when an officer notices them, say, cross the street outside a crosswalk.
“If I have a legal reason to stop him because he commits a pedestrian violation,” Ivey said, “I don’t think I would be an astute policeman to not use the tools at my disposal.”
The question of what constitutes suspicious behavior was at the center of the controversy around New York City’s stop-and-frisk policy.
In her 2013 decision declaring stop-and-frisk unconstitutional, Judge Shira A. Scheindlin concluded that New York police routinely stopped people they had no objective reason to suspect of wrongdoing.
“Blacks are likely targeted for stops based on a lesser degree of objectively founded suspicion than whites. It is impermissible to subject all members of a racially defined group to heightened police enforcement because some members of that group are criminals.”
Often, when officers stopped people with “suspicious” bulges in their clothing, they turned out to be commonplace objects like wallets and cellphones that should not have justified frisks or searches. And the vast majority of those stopped on the basis of such observations and things like “furtive movements” – which officers testified could be anything from being fidgety to changing directions to looking over one’s shoulder – were black.
“Blacks are likely targeted for stops based on a lesser degree of objectively founded suspicion than whites,” Scheindlin wrote. “It is impermissible to subject all members of a racially defined group to heightened police enforcement because some members of that group are criminals.”
She emphasized “the human toll of unconstitutional stops,” characterizing them as “a demeaning and humiliating experience.”
The sheriff’s office said Jacksonville’s use of pedestrian violations to stop suspicious people could not be compared to New York’s stop-and-frisk program. For one thing, each stop meets the legal standard for probable cause because officers have observed a violation, giving them a reason to engage with the person.
Undersheriff Ivey said officers typically then questioned the pedestrians and often got them to consent to a search. Officers could also search an individual if they felt in some way threatened or the person failed to cooperate in showing identification. He said that if such searches did not yield a weapon or drugs, the deputies were free to simply give the person a warning about the pedestrian violation.
It’s not easy to say how many of the police encounters with people allegedly violating pedestrian statutes lead to searches. The sheriff’s office said it does not actively track how many of the tickets it issues result in searches and or added charges.
What’s more, there even less information kept on instances where police stop someone for a supposed pedestrian violation, and only issue a warning. The sheriff’s office again said it kept no formal count. Records suggest the office issues about 11,000 warnings of all kinds every year. The records indicate the yearly number of warnings could run to the hundreds. A Times-Union/ProPublica review of the office’s work under the state Department of Transportation grants shows police issued more than 1,900 warnings in a 15-month span.
Still, it’s clear such searches are happening. The Times-Union and ProPublica used court records to identify at least 149 cases in which a pedestrian violation led to a search and subsequent additional charge. Even more than the total pool of pedestrian violators, those that are charged with more serious offenses tend to be African American. Overall, the Times-Union/ProPublica analysis showed, 80 percent of those for whom pedestrian violations were accompanied by other charges were black; 77 percent of the additional charges involved drugs.
The Times-Union and ProPublica’s reporting – interviews as well as a deeper examination of some ticket records – makes clear there are more cases where tickets lead to searches and added charges than show up in the court records. It is unclear, however, just how many more.
The Times-Union and ProPublica found a number of additional cases where drugs or weapons were found on those ticketed. But the reporting also found black men who said they were issued a ticket, searched and left enraged when the officers found nothing.
It happened to Bobby Wingate in December of 2012. Wingate was stopped for walking on the wrong side of the wrong road, and was so upset by the officer’s actions he called 911. Some of that encounter was captured on the 911 tape. Wingate accused the officer of punching him in the face. The officer charged Wingate with resisting arrest. Ultimately, the city, while admitting no wrongdoing, wound up paying Wingate $9,500 and the ticket and arrest were voided.
Listen to the Wingate 911 call
“What did I do? Nothing,” Wingate told a 911 dispatcher. “Walking down the street, minding my business … He stopped me for no reason.”
Jeffrey A. Fagan, a criminologist at Columbia Law School who was involved in the legal fight against stop-and-frisk, said Jacksonville’s pedestrian ticketing program resembles New York’s approach in several regards. It gives officers wide discretion in conducting searches; there are profound racial disparities in who gets stopped; and it yields small crime-fighting dividends.
He said the imbalance of pedestrian stops on poor and black people resembled a “fishing expedition” or “dragnet “to conduct pat downs and look for outstanding warrants.
“Whether they’re outstanding warrants for traffic or misdemeanor cases, for failure to pay fines, they’re for all kinds of reasons,” Fagan said. “They get sucked into the criminal justice system, and so that citation … translates to an arrest.”
Williams, the Jacksonville sheriff, sees no parallels with stop-and-frisk. African Americans were not being targeted, he and Ivey underlined. Officers were under no mandate to meet quotas for tickets given. As a whole, the tickets were warranted and legitimately issued.
“There’s got to be a reason why we do it,” Williams said of the ticketing. “Ultimately, it’s got to be done because we’re trying to make communities safer.”
He said that the merits of any search and or arrest resulting from an initial pedestrian violation could only be explored by “digging into” individual cases.
“My point is, and my position is, just like police shootings and everything else, you’ve got to dig down to each individual one,” Williams said.
Williams did not indicate he felt any reason to dig into the pedestrian cases in light of our analysis.
Chapter 4. Error Prone
Jacksonville’s enforcement of pedestrian violations briefly became an internet phenomenon over the summer. Devonte Shipman, 21, video recorded his encounter with an officer who had stopped him for jaywalking. In the encounter, Shipman said the officer said explicitly he was using the jaywalking citation in order to check him for weapons. The video was seen by more than half a million people.
One of the claims of the officer who encountered Shipman was that he could be ticketed, and even arrested, for failing to have identification on him. The officer was wrong. It is a requirement only of motorists.
The video makes clear the error on the officer’s part only inflamed the situation, but Shipman said he remained calm because he thought the officer was purposely trying to get him to act out.
“That way, he couldn’t catch the criminal he was trying to create,” Shipman said.
Our analysis of the data shows Shipman wasn’t the only one wrongly cited for not carrying an ID while walking. The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has erroneously ticketed six other people on foot for the same citation since 2012, according to court records. Five of the six were black and none of the tickets were dropped or corrected, according to records. Two of those cited paid the flawed ticket; the cases of the other four remain unpaid and open.
But the Times-Union/ProPublica examination shows significant numbers of erroneous tickets are given for violations other than not carrying identification.
From 2012 to 2017, 658 tickets were issued in Jacksonville for people crossing the street while not in crosswalk. It turns out, more than half of those tickets — 353 — were issued in error, according to the Times-Union/ProPublica analysis. And, again, a disproportionate number of those erroneous tickets – 48 percent – were issued to blacks.
The scores of mistaken tickets appear to result from confusion about the subsection of pedestrian law that police use to cite people for crossing mid-block, or “outside the crosswalk.” The statute – which accounts for more pedestrian tickets than any other in Duval County — actually only applies to those crossing between “adjacent intersections with traffic signals.”
We examined the listed locations for the tickets using Google Street View to determine whether citations for crossing outside the crosswalk adhered to Florida law. That examination showed tickets were given in places where there weren’t adjacent intersections with traffic lights. Scores of the tickets were given in locations where no traffic lights exist.
At least eight people in Jacksonville have been charged with felonies – six cases involved drug possession and two were gun charges — stemming from the flawed pedestrian stops, according to our analysis. All but one of those charged were black.
It is not clear how many of the flawed tickets led to searches or driver’s license suspensions for failure to pay fines.
“I am not beyond apologizing for us making mistakes,” Williams said. “Many of those cases are long gone, an apology may be it.”
Williams has now asked the local state attorney to review the statute to determine if his office had indeed been enforcing it erroneously.
Mac Heavener, chief assistant state attorney, said the question of whether large numbers of tickets had been issued in error was a “novel issue” for his office. He said it would be up to defense lawyers to question the validity of the ticket, and any subsequent arrest that occurred as a result of the pedestrian violation.
Charlie Cofer, the local public defender, said he saw a problem with the enforcement of the statute. Cofer said after seeing the Times-Union/ProPublica analysis, he sent a memorandum to all of his attorneys to be on the alert about the statute and what it does and does not prohibit. Cofer said the confusion around the statute offered him the training opportunity to emphasize to his attorneys that they should drill into any civil ordinances that are the basis of a stop, and he said he was considering sharing his memorandum with the state’s other 19 public defenders.
Jacksonville Councilwoman Lori Boyer has been trying to get the sheriff to address his office’s problem with the statute for years. She said the office, on its website, had eliminated language about the statute that made clear its more limited application.
Boyer said the Times-Union/ProPublica findings on flawed tickets was indicative of the lack of understanding by law enforcement.
“I would certainly hope that there would be heightened interest in education among law enforcement,” Boyer said. “They have the authority to write tickets and we want them to educate people correctly.”
“What I never thought about was the cumulative repercussions which lends even more importance to the accuracy on the enforcement side,” she added.
Chris Burns, a Jacksonville civil attorney who litigates pedestrian and bicyclist issues, said that even the traffic investigators for the sheriff’s office don’t understand the complex statutes governing the issue.
Burns said he offered to train the sheriff’s office to apply the law properly, but the arrangement never materialized.
Hattaway, the state’s top expert on pedestrian safety, was not surprised by the office’s confusion. He said there is widespread misunderstanding of the statutes statewide, among officers and citizens. He said the array of statutes need to be clarified or rewritten.
“Walking while black means getting profiled more, it’s getting ticketed more,” Atherton said. “It also means being more exposed to traffic violence and at the same time having the least amount of safe infrastructure to use.”
Emiko Atherton, director of the National Complete Streets Coalition, an organization that ranks the most dangerous cities for pedestrians, said that African Americans in dangerous cities for pedestrians such as Jacksonville wind up harmed in a variety of ways.
“Walking while black means getting profiled more, it’s getting ticketed more,” Atherton said. “It also means being more exposed to traffic violence and at the same time having the least amount of safe infrastructure to use.”
Leslie Scott Jean-Bart is a lawyer in Jacksonville with experience in discrimination cases, and the granddaughter of the first black woman elected to the city council. In an interview, she said the racial disparities found by the Times-Union and ProPublica were predictable and unacceptable. But she said she didn’t even need the analysis to conclude that ticketing lots of poor people was not going to meaningfully improve traffic safety or reduce crime.
“You have communities that are already suffering economically, and then you’re putting additional economic burdens on the people there that then affect the driver’s license,” she said. “You’re talking about work. You get pulled over a couple times, you end up in jail. The next thing you know, it’s a felony. It just keeps going and keeps going.”
“This is very real,” she added. “This supports the fear that is in the African American community in Jacksonville and so many other communities. Now that we have the numbers, it’s time to talk about what are we going to be do about it?”
About the reporters
Topher Sanders covers racial inequality for ProPublica. He has reported on education and city government for The Florida Times-Union since 2008. Named to the investigative team in 2013, he became the paper’s investigative editor in 2014.
Benjamin Conarck covers policing and criminal justice for the Florida Times-Union. Before coming to Jacksonville in September 2016, he studied investigative journalism at Columbia Journalism School.
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Editors Note: An editing error resulted in an earlier version of this article misstating the name of the federal judge in New York who ruled the police department’s stop-and-frisk practices unconstitutional. She is Shira A. Scheindlin.
FIND THE ORIGINAL HERE: http://jacksonville.com/walkingwhileblack