Jacksonville Police, Under Fire for Racist Jaywalking Enforcement, Refuse to Reassess

The June, 2017, jaywalking arrest of Devonte Shipman by Jacksonville police led to a detailed investigation of the department's discriminatory pedestrian enforcement. Photo: Devonte Shipman/Facebook
The June, 2017, jaywalking arrest of Devonte Shipman by Jacksonville police led to a detailed investigation of the department's discriminatory pedestrian enforcement. Photo: Devonte Shipman/Facebook

Despite a bombshell investigation showing the discriminatory nature of pedestrian fines in Jacksonville, local police are refusing to reform their approach to jaywalking stops.

The “Walking While Black” series by the Florida Times-Union and ProPublica found that local police disproportionately issue jaywalking tickets to black people. The city has a bewildering array of 28 different laws dictating how people can legally walk. Anyone walking any distance can easily run afoul of them. The local Fox affiliate recorded multiple instances of police officers themselves violating the rules.

The laws function as a convenient pretext to stop black people. They’re not doing anything to make people safer: Jacksonville remains one of the most dangerous cities in the U.S. for walking.

Jacksonville residents are calling for change. The Times-Union’s Ben Conarck reports that Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams spoke to a crowd of 1,400 people at a recent meeting of the Interfaith Coalition for Action, Reconciliation & Empowerment (ICARE) demanding reforms. But Williams said police aren’t about to reassess their approach to jaywalking tickets.

Conarck writes:

Williams said it is his agency’s stance today to emphasis discretion and to take infrastructure into account. He said his office has conducted internal training around pedestrian tickets. He didn’t provide details on when this training took place, how it was conducted and what spurred the training. The Times-Union and ProPublica documented cases of people who said they were ticketed for stepping around flooded sidewalks, or crossing the street where they were legally allowed to cross.

In the face of questions from Baber and Pastor James Wiggins, the sheriff could not point to any evidence to support that tickets with fines improve safety. In fact, Times-Union and ProPublica reporting showed fatal pedestrian crashes have risen at nearly an identical rate as ticketing has climbed in the last five years.

Racial discrimination in jaywalking stops is widespread and hardly limited to Jacksonville. At least one city, Seattle, has discussed eliminating the laws as a result.

As evidence mounts that this enforcement does harm without helping anyone, how much longer will Jacksonville police resist change?

  • HayBro

    Beyond issues of racism that may be present here, most jaywalking tickets are bogus. You can walk across the street in the middle of the block if there are not traffic signals at both ends. This is true in most – if not all – states. It doesn’t mean you can dart into the roadway but if you yield to cars passing by, you can cross in the middle of the block. From the Florida Vehicle Code:


    (10)?Every pedestrian crossing a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway.
    (11)?Between adjacent intersections at which traffic control signals are in operation, pedestrians shall not cross at any place except in a marked crosswalk.

  • Bingo. Too many people do not realize that crossing outside of a crosswalk (which itself is a term that a lot of people don’t even understand either) is not illegal as long as the walker yields to oncoming traffic.

  • LazyReader

    Cops are wasting their time, you were taught at a very early age, don’t cross in the middle, cross at the crosswalk, be visible and “Look both ways”

  • Cynara2

    Agree, They also think jaywalking is a crime. I only know about California, where I am. Jaywalking is not a crime. There is virtually no such thing as jaywalking.

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One of Sacramento's poorest neighborhoods doesn't have enough crosswalks. It also has a high rate of jaywalking arrests. Image: KXTV

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