Walking While Black: Analysis Finds Racial Slant in FL Tickets

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ProPublica and the Florida Times-Union report that blacks received 55 percent of all pedestrian tickets issued over the past five years in Jacksonville, Fla., where African Americans account for 29 percent of the population. Almost all of the tickets, typically costing $65, were issued in the city’s poorest neighborhoods. Blacks 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 other, more affluent 34 zip codes. Seventy-eight percent of all tickets written for “walking in the roadway where sidewalks are provided” were issued to blacks. And blacks got 68 percent of tickets issued for “failing to cross the road at a right angle or shortest route.”

Sheriff Mike Williams said, “Let me tell you this: There is not an active effort to be in black neighborhoods writing pedestrian tickets.” The sheriff’s department’s second-in-command, Patrick Ivey, said any racial disparities could only be explained by the fact that blacks were simply violating the statutes more often than others in Jacksonville. 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.

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