It’s apparently a thing in Jacksonville, Fla., where the local NAACP and several government officials have called for the Sheriff’s Office to suspend all pedestrian ticket writing because of racial bias.
Civil rights leaders, including the representatives of the local chapter of the NAACP and Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the Northside Coalition, a community advocacy group, said in a statement released Tuesday that they are concerned that officers are selectively enforcing pedestrian tickets.
The Florida Times-Union reports that Ben Frazier, a spokesman for the Northside Coalition, said that Sheriff Mike Williams “abruptly canceled” a scheduled meeting for Tuesday afternoon. However, the Sheriff’s Office later said that it planned to reschedule.
Williams appeared before a City Council subcommittee Monday and sought to reassure the lawmakers that African Americans were not being targeted.
“We base our enforcement on traffic complaints from citizens or data,” he said during the meeting. “We don’t have ticket quotas.”
The calls from the civil rights organizations come two weeks after the Times-Union and ProPublica reported that of the more than 2,200 pedestrian tickets issued from 2012 to 2017, 55 percent went to African Americans, who make up only 29 percent of the population.
Blacks in Jacksonville were nearly three times as likely as whites to be ticketed for a pedestrian violation, and 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 34 other, more affluent, zip codes, according to the report.
The tickets included minor infractions such as jaywalking and walking on the wrong side of the road. Such dings fill the coffers of local municipalities but can adversely affect people’s credit ratings if they go unpaid. They also cover ridiculous statutes like “walking in the roadway where sidewalks are provided” and “failing to cross the road at a right angle or shortest route,” which were given to African Americans at a rate of 78 precent and 68 percent, respectively.
The report also showed that even though the Sheriff’s Office said that tickets were primarily written to help limit deadly accidents, the analysis showed that there was no strong relationship between where tickets were being issued and where pedestrians were being killed.
The Sheriff’s Office also said that stopping people for pedestrian violations gave officers probable cause to question and perhaps search individuals suspected of having drugs or weapons, and was a deterrent to crime. But looked at another way, this is just harassment, or the beginning of what can be a deadly interaction with law enforcement.
It should be noted that 18-year-old Mike Brown, of Ferguson, Mo., was “walking in the road,” which prompted what proved to be a fatal encounter with the officer who killed him in August 2014.
Frazier, the Northside Coalition spokesman, said in a statement that the sheriff and the mayor should “should stop tap-dancing around the truth” and admit officers were engaging in “racially discriminatory police tactics.”
“The numbers don’t lie,” Frazier said.
Read more at the Florida Times-Union.