A white officer’s threats to arrest a black man for jaywalking last week in Florida are being called an abuse of power.
The incident, which was recorded and has now gone viral. shows Jacksonville sheriff’s deputy J.S. Bolen detaining 21-year-old Devonte Shipman.
Shipman lives in the Arlington neighborhood of Jacksonville, on the city’s east side, and had just crossed the road last Tuesday with a friend when the officer drove up and beckoned the men toward his department cruiser, reported the Florida Times-Union. The officer told the men they had illegally walked against the crossing signal directions.
At first, Shipman declined to approach the cruiser because he didn’t understand why the officer was stopping him, he told the newspaper. When Bolen got out of the car, Shipman said he began recording.
“What was it that we did wrong, officer?” Shipman asks in the video.
“You crossed,” Bolen says while walking briskly toward Shipman. “Take your camera and point it across there at the red hand. That is a crosswalk.”
Bolen tells Shipman that the men weren’t in the crosswalk and that they walked when the sign indicated they shouldn’t.
“That’s a $65 ticket a piece,” Bolen says. “Get to my car. You are being legally detained. If you disobey … I will put you in jail.”
At one point during the interaction, the officer threatened to cite Shipman for not having his ID. When asked, the man recited his name and birth date without resistance.
“In the state of Florida, you have to have an ID card on you identifying who you are,” Bolen tells Shipman in the video. “I can detain you up to seven hours until I figure out who you are.”
Eric Friday, a lawyer in Jacksonville, told First Coast News that the officer’s statement about an ID card was “blatantly false.” The law Bolen was referring to, according to the Sheriff’s Office, was Florida statute 322.15(1). But it only requires identification for someone operating a motor vehicle.
“It doesn’t apply to a person who’s just walking down the street,” Friday told First Coast News.
Diallo Sekou, an activist and candidate for city council, said black communities are routinely targeted with frivolous pedestrian infractions. “It’s walking while black,” Sekou told the Times-Union. “This is Jim Crow when it comes to these laws and ordinances in the city.”
“Driving while black” and “biking while black” are phrases that have been used to describe statistical evidence showing that black people are more likely to be pulled over in cars or stopped on bicycles.
The sheriff’s office said it was reviewing the video but that Bolen is not under investigation, reported the Times-Union.
Shipman criticized the officer for overreacting.
“There’s no way I was disrespectful or anything to make this man react the way he did,” Shipman told the Times-Union. “Period.”
As the two quibbled in the video, Bolen appeared to get increasingly agitated.
“Look,” Shipman says, before Bolen cuts him off. “You look at me,” the officer says, pointing to his car. “If you don’t walk to that car I will put you in jail.”
The charge would be resisting arrest without violence, the officer tells Shipman. “Listen to me,” Bolen says. “I am doing you a favor. I’m not telling you again.”
At that point in the video, Shipman walks toward the officer’s car and later tries to qualify his alleged jaywalking.
“I wasn’t paying attention,” Shipman says in the video. “You act like I really just committed a serious crime that’s worth this time right now.”
“It is worth the time,” Bolen responds.
The man told ABC affiliate Local 10 News he employed the “look left and right” method and saw no cars before he decided to cross the street. Shipman said the officer “abused his power” during the interaction when he could have tried to educate the pair on the law.
“But instead it was more of him taunting me,” Shipman told First Coast News.
Shipman has said he will not pay for the two citations and plans to contest them in court. In the video, Bolen challenged him to do just that.
“You can take it to court,” the officer says. “Since you have such a strong grasp, I really hope you pick that option because I promise you I’ll be there.”
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