Walking while black seems to be a problem in Jacksonville, Florida where black citizens are smacked with pedestrian violations at exorbitantly higher rates than any other community. According to a report released by ProPublica, of the more than 2,200 pedestrian tickets issued between 2012 to 2017, 55 percent went to African Americans, who make up only 29 percent of the population.
Essentially, if you're black in Jacksonville, you're three times more likely to be cited for a walking violation than someone who is white, and if you happen to live in the city's poorest three zip codes you are six times more likely to be hit with a pedestrian violation than those in affluent neighborhoods.
What exactly is a walking violation? Well, in Jacksonville it goes far beyond your standard jaywalking. Walking on the wrong side of the road, "walking on a roadway where sidewalks are provided" and "failing to cross the road at a right angle or shortest route" are actual violations that African Americans are cited for at extreme rates.
While the Sheriff’s Office reports that tickets are issued as a means of public safety to limit deadly accidents, the ProPublica report found no correlation between the areas where tickets were being issued and where pedestrians were being killed.
However, stopping people for pedestrian violations does allow officers probable cause to question and search individuals suspected of having drugs or weapons as a "deterrent to crime." Is this practice a "deterrent to crime" or is it just an extension of stop and frisk policies that have been implemented in other cities across the country?
The local chapter of the NAACP along with several government officials have called for the Sheriff’s Office to suspend all pedestrian ticket writing because of racial bias. In a statement released on Tuesday, Dec. 5, local activists, including the NAACP, Southern Christian Leadership Conference and the Northside Coalition advocacy group, expressed concern that officers were selectively enforcing pedestrian tickets.
Ben Frazier, a spokesman for the Northside Coalition, told The Florida Times-Union that Sheriff Mike Williams “abruptly canceled” a meeting scheduled for Tuesday afternoon. The Sheriff’s Office has since said that it planned to reschedule.