Personal Injury As A Result of Racial Profiling
Nobody likes to look in the rearview mirror and see flashing red and blue lights. You’re on the road because you need to get somewhere, and stopping to deal with a traffic violation can be beyond annoying. Are some individuals more likely to be pulled over than others on Florida roadways? The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) says quite definitively that the answer is yes. Data from state agencies confirms that black motorists are far more likely to be stopped for multiple violations on Florida highways. The broader question now revolves around the concept of racial profiling. Is it a problem in Florida? If you believe you have been a victim of racial profiling, an experienced personal injury attorney may be able to help.
What is Racial Profiling?
Essentially, the targeting of a particular population by law enforcement based on race, religion, or national origin is considered racial profiling. When policing organizations generalize that particular kinds of people are likely to commit particular types of crime, officers may then make generalizations about people based on very narrow criteria, such as race. This can lead to specific demographics experiencing a high level of police scrutiny, resulting in increased stops and arrests.
Florida Statistics Tell the Story—and Raise Further Questions
Black motorists were stopped and cited for seat belt violations at about double the rate of white motorists in Florida in recent years. In some counties, the rate was quadruple the rate for blacks compared to whites. Is it possible that black drivers simply buckle up at a lower rate than their white counterparts? According to the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), seatbelt utilization rates were roughly comparable among the races during the period under study, leading to the conclusion that racial profiling may have been at the root of the disproportionate ticketing of black drivers.
So if black drivers are being targeted by law enforcement for minor offenses such as seatbelt violations, is racial profiling impacting the black community in other areas?
Policing and the Black Community
Questions abound as to appropriate policing strategies and policies with regard to the black community. Our president says stop-and-frisk policies are the way to stop the dissemination of drugs, despite constitutional questions around the practice.
So how do law enforcement agencies protect black communities, while at the same time managing to avoid racism? One public defender in South Florida views the police as an “armed force” that harasses blacks for minor infractions that would never be pursued in wealthier, whiter neighborhoods. For example, 96 percent of individuals who wrangled with law enforcement officers over walking in the street (as opposed to on a sidewalk) were black. And individuals who were stopped for riding unlicensed bicycles? Ninety-four percent were black.
On the other hand, people want to live in safe, drug-free communities. Having a visible police presence is a notable deterrent to crime. What’s wrong with stopping a questionable individual in the name of keeping the community safe?
One representative of the Sheriff’s Department notes that police stops must be made based on “articulable facts.” In other words, any reasonable officer would conclude that the stop was based on the rational conclusion that the person involved has committed, or is about to commit a crime. Race should never be a factor.
Racial profiling is patently against the law. The U.S. Constitution promises equal protection. If an unwarranted police stop resulted in personal injury to you in Daytona Beach, your reputation or your livelihood, the experienced team at the Law Offices of Robert W. Elton can help. Contact us today for a free, confidential consultation.