Council President Harrell’s Statement on Jaywalking Tickets Disparity

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Council President Bruce A. Harrell (District 2, South Seattle) issued the following statement in response to the Seattle Times report about the disproportionately high rate of jaywalking tickets issued to African American pedestrians in Seattle:

“The recent report showing a disproportionate percentage of jaywalking tickets issued to African Americans reinforces the importance of the bias-free policing law Council adopted earlier this week. The law makes bias-free policing a permanent part of the Seattle Municipal Code, prohibits police officers from engaging in biased policing, creates a private right of action for persons alleging that they are a victim of biased policing, and requires robust data collection for pedestrian stops.

“The data shows that in 2016, 28 percent of jaywalking citations were written to African Americans. Over the last seven years, the percentage of African Americans who were issued jaywalking citations never went below 20 percent. Remember that African Americans represent about seven percent of the City’s population.

“I am pleased to see the response by Seattle Police Assistant Chief Perry Tarrant to the disparate ticketing data and for his commitment to closely examine the issue. I give credit to the Police Department for being transparent and openly acknowledging the issue of disparity and welcome SPD’s analysis of the data. Disparity does not necessary indicate bias, but should be further examined by SPD.

“I am also keenly interested to know if this trend continues. With that in mind I will call on SPD to inform the Council within six months to determine what if anything has changed in their approach and resulting trends.

“As I stated during the passage of the bias-free policing law, we still have a lot of work to do to address how race affects decisions, both consciously and subconsciously. But at the end of the day and at the start of each officer’s police shift, my greatest hope is that the City’s officers will renew their commitment to bias-free policing and to enforcing ours laws equally among all races and ethnicities.”