Wednesday [January 27, 2016], the American Civil Liberties Union released a report stating Black motorists in the state of Florida were stopped and given tickets for not wearing seat belts nearly twice as much as whites.
In Orange and Palm Beach counties, the disparity grew with Blacks being three time more likely to get pulled over for seat belt a violation, and it grows to being four times more likely in Escambia County.
“The over-ticketing of any community in ways that aren’t justified by regular police behavior raises red flags and can cause serious harms,” says Nusrat Choudhury, a lawyer with the ACLU. “Communities feel stigmatized not because of what they have done but who they are. And it burdens people with fines that can be hard to pay.”
Choudhury made note of how excessive traffic stops and profiling towards particular ethnic groups could only allow animosity toward the police to grow. Citing the cases of Sandra Bland and Walter Scott, she showed how disparities between law enforcement and racial groups, specifically the Black population can lead to tragic situations.
However, the most worrisome number in this report is the number 10. That’s how many years the Tampa Police Department has not reported their data on police interactions with different races.
The ACLU states that Tampa’s failure to report is a violation of the law. Florida’s Seat Belt Safety Law went into effect in 2005, and requires that law enforcement report the numbers to the state.
But, what is shown is in 2014 Tampa police officers issued citations to 575 Black motorists and 549 white motorists. This shows that Tampa’s 26 percent Black population is ticketed at a rate nearly 100 percent higher than would be expected by population. Tampa’s 62 percent white population is ticketed at a rate that is 22 percent, lower than what it should be.
“If you talk with any African American or person of color, the common term that you hear or phrase that you hear is ‘driving while black and brown,'” said Joyce Hamilton Henry of the ACLU.
The ACLU has challenged Florida state legislature to adopt a law that penalizes law enforcement agencies that fail to comply with reporting regulations. The report also recommends law enforcement departments analyze their collected data in order properly identify and address racial disparities.