Driving while Black in Florida, data proves police racially profiled based on their assumption about minorities

Karen Madej

"Each one of those stops had nothing to do with breaking the law. It's like somebody pulls your pants down around your ankles. You're standing there nude, but you've got to act like there's nothing happening. The worst thing you can do in a situation like that is to become emotionally engaged, because if you do something, maybe they're going to do something else to you. It doesn't make a difference who you are. You're never beyond this, because of the color of your skin." – Michael, 41, chief executive of municipal agency

As we know from repeated incidents, too many Black folks, when they found themselves in such positions, they were unable to hold back their emotions. And paid with their lives.

In 2017, Orlando, Florida Police pulled over State Attorney Aramis Ayala on June 19. The reason, a tag he'd never seen before. And possibly too dark a tint on the windows.

Turns out the police officer was not wrong.

The State attorney took it up with the Chief of Orlando Police. She gave the following statement as reported in the Tampa Bay Times.

The traffic stop appeared consistent with state law. She continued, adding that she intends to work for a mutually respectful relationship with law enforcement and the community.

Racial profiling

Indeed, with everyone knowing this is something white cops have done for decades, and the stats exist to back this up, why does it still happen? Why haven't the racist cops been weeded out? And why are White cops so much more trigger-happy (and knee-crushing windpipe determined) with Black lives than with White?

Racial profiling is discriminatory

Why does a section of Americans believe they are superior to Blacks, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC)? According to a 1999 U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs study Driving While Black: Racial Profiling on Our Nation's Highways:

Racial profiling is based on the premise that most drug offenses are committed by minorities, and this premise creates a profile that results in more traffic stops of minority drivers.

It's not just BIPOCs who use and sell illegal substances, though. In 1999, five times as many whites used illegal substances as minority races. Somehow the war on illegal substances targeted people of color and their skin color is/was an automatic reason to stop them while driving.

Prison population statistics showed evidence of police racial profiling. Based on the fact that blacks make up 13% of illegal substances in the U.S of those:

  • 37% arrested
  • 55% convicted
  • 74% of all illegal substances offenders imprisoned

A self-fulfilling prophecy

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Special Report of June 1999, DRIVING WHILE BLACK: RACIAL PROFILING ON OUR NATION'S HIGHWAYS report written by By David A. Harris, University of Toledo College of Law, carried out a study in several locations.

They found police racially profiled based on their assumption that minorities committed most illegal substance offenses. Although what officers assumed was not fact or true, it became their reason for stopping so many minority races.

A police officer's first instinct when they see an ethnic minority person driving by is they aren't white or they're Black, Latino, Hispanic, therefore they must have contraband in their vehicle. I'll stop them and see what they're hiding. Because of this instinct, cops arrest more non-whites. Then more non-whites are prosecuted, convicted, and jailed. Proving, incorrectly, the majority of illegal substance trafficking is carried out by minorities.

This attitude shapes the (inaccurate) profile that means more police stops of non-white drivers. Of course, this results in many of the white dealers and those in possession of illegal substances driving on by, leaving a continuous loop of everyone believing whites commit fewer drug offenses than non-white-skinned people.

Stanford Open Policing Project

Did you know police stop more than 20 million motorists every year? Yet traffic stops had never been recorded, at least not in any well-organized way.

The Stanford Open Policing Project changed that in 2015 when they started requesting traffic stop data from all states. So far, they have collected over 200 million traffic stop records and search data from across the U.S.

This is what they found for Florida. No contraband was found. Interesting.

The Stanford Open Policing Project data are made available under the Open Data Commons Attribution License.Screenshot by Author

The screenshot below is for comparison purposes and to show you what happened when Colorado and Washington legalized one of the most popular reasons for traffic stops.

The Stanford Open Policing Project data are made available under the Open Data Commons Attribution License.Screenshot by Author

The next screenshot is of 4 of 12 states, including Florida, that at the time hadn't legalized the main reason for traffic stops.

The Stanford Open Policing Project data are made available under the Open Data Commons Attribution License.Screenshot by Author

We can see from, at the time, State Attorney Aramis Ayalaon's calm and polite conversation with the police officer that every non-white driver in Florida can survive a traffic stop. Remaining calm is key.

As we've discovered here, through facts and figures, while the officer at the start of this article was not wrong about his right to pull over the driver, the reason in his mind for doing so was most likely because of the woman's skin color.

Attorney Aramis Ayalaon remains on the side of civil rights and continues to challenge the law and order establishments. Particularly for pulling cars over under the banner of driving while black.

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Passionate about climate change and living a debt-free, sustainable life. Determined to learn how to and build an adobe house or Earthship. The goal is to live off-grid and off the land. Energy for heat and to power electrical devices and appliances will use solar, wind, and hydro-powered electricity. No trees will die to make my home.


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