This story was co-published with the Florida Times-Union.
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has told its officers not to ticket pedestrians for not carrying a driver’s license and is voiding six such citations it erroneously issued.
The tickets were identified in mid-November by ProPublica and the Times-Union in their Walking While Black investigation, which documented significant racial disparities in pedestrian citations and unearthed constitutional concerns surrounding how the Sheriff’s Office uses them as a policing tool.
Lt. Chris Brown of the department’s Professional Oversight Unit wrote in an email that its investigation into the tickets had been sustained, and the citations were in the process of being voided. All but one of the pedestrians who received the false tickets is black.
“Additionally, a bulletin was issued to the entire department explaining that Florida State Statute 322.15, which prohibits the possession of mutilated licenses and requires licenses to be carried, only applies to motorists,” Brown said.
In late June, Devonte Shipman filmed his pedestrian stop in the Arlington neighborhood. The resulting video went viral and spurred the ProPublica/Times-Union investigation. Although Shipman voluntarily identified himself, he was told he needed to carry a driver’s license and was cited by Officer Jack S. Bolen.
The Sheriff’s Office voided that ticket after the Times-Union identified it as being given in error, and launched an administrative investigation into Bolen’s conduct recorded in the video. The status of that investigation is unknown, but as of Dec. 7, Officer Bolen was working in the department’s Teleserve unit, which often indicates an ongoing review.
ProPublica and the Times-Union identified six others instances of pedestrians receiving that citation from sheriff’s officers, and one such ticket issued by a Jacksonville Beach police officer.
Earlier this month, Jacksonville Beach Police Department Commander Steve Corbitt said his agency voided that ticket and conducted a training session in which it stressed that the citation is only meant for motorists. Each officer signed an acknowledgment that they received the training.
“You found an error and y’all were correct,” Corbitt said. “We’re appreciative that you brought it to our attention.”
ProPublica and the Times-Union also identified 353 erroneous crosswalk tickets in Duval County, and thousands more across the state.
Despite the fact that 132 of the erroneous crosswalk tickets led to suspended driver’s licenses, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has no plans to review those citations, agency spokeswoman Lauri-Ellen Smith said earlier this month.
“If the ticket is disputed in court and a judge asserts it was written incorrectly because of an officer’s lack of proper application of the statute, we’ll address that as a training issue,” Smith said.