In Jacksonville, Florida, the police has been issuing hundreds of tickets to pedestrians. Tickets are not only issued for jaywalking or crossing at the red light but also for crossing at the yellow light or “failing to cross the street at a right angle”. The police also ticketed pedestrians because they were walking on the right side of the road instead of the left side when there were no sidewalks on both sides of the road. In other cases pedestrians were ticketed for walking on the road when a sidewalk was available.
A pedestrian ticket in itself is not such a big deal however if it is left unpaid it can damage a credit history or lead to a driver license suspension.
In a recent investigation ProPublica asked the sheriff why so many pedestrians were ticketed in Jacksonville. The sheriff replied that his city had one of the highest pedestrian fatality rates in the country and that tickets were the best way to save lives.
Based on the Sherriff’s answer it would be logical that most pedestrian tickets be issued at dangerous locations where pedestrians were previously killed or injured in traffic accidents. It is not the case in Jacksonville. ProPublica found out that most pedestrian tickets were issued in the city’s poorest neighborhoods. In Jacksonville 55% of the pedestrians tickets were issued to black people while they represent only 29% of the city’s total population. Blacks are 3 times as likely as whites to be ticketed for a pedestrian violation. Additionally ProPublica found that hundreds of tickets that were issued for crossing the street while not in a crosswalk were erroneous.
Racial profiling by police is not new in the US. In New Jersey, minority drivers were profiled on highways by the State police. In New York, stop-and-frisk was declared unconstitutional by a federal judge after statistics showed that 83% of the stop-and-frisk by the NYPD were targeting minorities. In 1999, Amadou Diallo, whose mother was represented by our partner NYC Police Brutality Attorney Anthony Gair, was shot and killed by four officers of the New York City Police Department’s Street Crimes Unit, which, under the slogan, “We Own the Night,” used aggressive “stop and frisk” tactics against African Americans.