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Jacksonville demands end to racist ‘stop and frisk’ policy

#WalkingWhileBlack is not a crime
By staff |
December 16, 2017
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Shipman being stopped by police in late June 2017.
Shipman being stopped by police in late June 2017. (Fight Back! News/staff)

Jacksonville, FL - Around 25 members of different civil rights organizations spoke out at the Jacksonville city council meeting, Dec. 12, to demand an end to the racial profiling and the racist ticketing policies of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. Members of the Jacksonville Community Action Committee (JCAC), the Northside Coalition, the Jacksonville Progressive Coalition, UNF Students for a Democratic Society as well as the local Southern Christian Leadership Conference spoke out at city council, saying that #WalkingWhileBlack is not a crime and demanded a halt to the pedestrian ticketing program run by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.

A recent article in the Florida Times Union and ProPublica entitled “Walking While Black” showed some startling statistics on discrimination of Black and poor residents in the city of Jacksonville, stating, “What the analysis does show is that the pedestrian tickets - typically costing $65, but carrying the power to damage one’s credit or suspend a driver’s license if unpaid - were disproportionately issued to blacks, almost all of them in the city’s poorest neighborhoods.”

In the same report, JSO Under Sheriff Pat Ivey also admitted that the sheriff’s office uses ticket violations as a pretense to search people who exhibit “suspicious behavior,” a policy reminiscent of the controversial and discriminatory stop and frisk and ‘broken windows’ policing methods from New York Police Department that was ruled unconstitutional in 2013.

“I spoke out at city council because I believe that JSO needs to be held accountable for its racist policing tactics,” said Joshua Parks, an organizer with the Jacksonville Community Action Committee. “I agree that a moratorium on ticketing is necessary until we can get some real accountability. I also believe that we need a JPAC [Jacksonville Police Accountability Council] to empower our people to control the institutions that are funded by our tax dollars and affect our communities like the police department.”

Devonte Shipman, a young Black man, was a victim to one of these tactics by JSO Officer J.S Bolen just this past summer. Shipman, whose now an activist with the JCAC, was stopped by multiple cops for walking across the street near where he lives. Police ‘stop and friske’ him, then gave him two tickets, one for not having a license and another for jaywalking. Shipman recorded the incident and it made national and international news, with enough pressure accumulating on JSO to drop one of the tickets. However, Shipman is still fighting the jaywalking ticket.

“When there’s a proof of using jaywalking as ways to stop and frisk, as a way of now making a non-criminal offense a systematic way to hand out tickets, then that’s a serious problem,” said Shipman.

Members of the community spoke passionately about the issue, urging action from the city council. Some councilmembers agreed with the idea of halting the issuing of tickets until a full investigation is on the program is done.

“We are telling the mayor and the sheriff they must stop this madness,” Ben Frazier, president of the Northside Coalition.

He and others pledged to keep up the pressure until demands are met.

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