A recent analysis of the city of Jacksonville, Florida’s strict pedestrian safety laws found that police officers have been disproportionately enforcing the laws in the city’s predominantly Black areas instead of areas with high pedestrian fatality rates. The analysis, which was conducted by the Florida Times-Union, shows that the police have been ticketing Black pedestrians at a higher rate than any other race.
Kenneth Nunn, a University of Florida law professor, says the data seems to indicates that the police are selectively enforcing the statutes in a way that resembles harassment and targeting.
“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,” he added.
While jaywalking is prohibited inmost cities, the law is rarely enforced, much less tickets for, however Jacksonville police have an extensive list of 28 pedestrian statutes to choose from if they want to stop and search someone on the streets. The police insist that the laws are on the books to prevent pedestrian fatalities. However, the joint investigation by the Times-Union and ProPublica, which analyzed 5 years of pedestrian ticketing, revealed that the police neglect to enforce the laws in places that have a high pedestrian fatality rate. And even with these stringent law in place, the number of pedestrian fatalities climbed from 2012 to 2016.
According to the report, over the past five years, Blacks received 55 percent of all pedestrian tickets in Jacksonville—even though they account for just 29 percent of the population. The police also wrote tickets for obscure violations disproportionately to Black pedestrians. For example, Blacks received 68 percent of all tickets for a violation that is given to pedestrians who fail to cross a street at a right angle.