They seek to decriminalize the reckless crossing of streets whose fines target Latinos

The fines for the reckless crossing of a street, known in English as jaywalking, disproportionately affect minorities and low-income people in California. And not only do they represent an economic cost for pedestrians of Latino and African-American origin, but sometimes, as has already been seen, they can end in fatal outcomes.

“There is a cruise in the city of Gardena in Los Angeles County, where the streets are very long. People do jaywalking to go to a business that is there because there is nowhere to cross. The result is that pedestrians receive fines of between $100 and $400, and they no longer want to return for fear of another financial sanction”, says Oscar Ulloa of the group Alerta Los Angeles.

And he criticizes the fact that the police approach is more focused on penalizing and the first thing they do is reach for their guns to solve any problem, including jaywalking without taking some common sense in a low traffic area. “Unfortunately, this is a pattern that is becoming more acute.”

San Francisco Assemblyman Phil Ting is back with a bill to decriminalize jaywalking. (Courtesy Phil Ting office)

So in an effort to seek justice and prevent the police from stopping you for crossing the street when or where you shouldn’t, which in English is known as jaywalking, San Francisco Assemblyman Phil Ting has introduced a bill to change the way pedestrians can be ticketed for walking out of a crosswalk.

This is measure AB 2147, The Freedom to Walk Act that seeks to decriminalize the reckless crossing of a street or the crossing on a red light by pedestrians when the street is safe to cross.

It’s time to reconsider how we use our enforcement resources and whether our reckless crossing laws actually protect pedestrians, especially when we’re trying to encourage people to get out of their cars and walk more for health and environmental reasons.” Assemblyman Ting said at a news conference.

This is Ting’s second attempt to decriminalize jaywalking in California. Last year the measure was vetoed by Governor Gavin Newsom.

The bill now features technical changes to address concerns raised by the AB 1238 veto message.

Tickets for jaywalking are raging against minorities. Photo credit: Mariela Lombard / El Diario.

Instead of repealing the state’s reckless crossing laws, the new bill defines when an officer can stop a pedestrian for reckless crossing, specifying that they can only do so when a reasonably careful person realizes there is an immediate danger of collision.

Specifically what AB 2147 does is promote fair and equitable use of the streets such as legalizing crossings outside of crosswalks or against traffic lights when safe; and eliminates fines at safe crossings.

It also prevents police from using reckless crossing as a pretext to stop African Americans and Latinos.

There are many examples of cases in California when a reckless crossing stop has been wrong.

On September 20, 2020, Orange County Sheriff’s deputies killed Kurt Reinhold, a 42-year-old homeless African-American man, who argued with them for stopping him when he was crossing the street on a red light.

The officers ended up giving him two shots that ended his life.

In many low-income neighborhoods there are no buttons that allow you to ask to cross the street safely. (Photo Aurelia Ventura/ La Opinion)

In the San Francisco Bay Area, Chinedu Okobi, a 36-year-old African American, was deprived of his life three years ago in the city of Millbrae by San Mateo County Sheriffs after being stopped for crossing outside the designated crosswalk. The agents used batons, pepper spray and electronic discharge weapons against him.

Okobi’s autopsy showed that he died of cardiac arrest.

In 2017, Nandi Cain Jr. was beaten by Sacramento police for inappropriately crossing the street. Cain survived and sued the police, getting $550,000 in compensation and changes in police policies.

The victims in each of these cases were African American. The numbers behind police stops for jaywalking are just as revealing.

From 2018 to 2020, data compiled by the California Racial and Identity Profiling Act (RIPA) shows that African-American Californians are severely overrepresented when it comes to being pulled over for jaywalking, up to four and a half times more than their peers. white counterparts.

“Everyone recklessly crosses, but California police officers are 5 times more likely to stop a black person than a white person. These laws are not only discriminatory, but also lead to harmful and, in some cases, deadly encounters with police,” said Rio Scharf of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area (LCCRSF).

“It’s time to finally decriminalize reckless street crossing.”

Minorities are the most fined for jaywalking. (Photo Aurelia Ventura/ La Opinion)

It should be noted that in low-income communities, they usually do not have adequate structures such as cross-street buttons or crosswalks.

Marcel Moran, a doctoral candidate at the University of California, Berkeley, studied pedestrian crossings in San Francisco, finding that there are few in low-income neighborhoods compared to areas where the wealthy live.

Reckless crossing laws were enacted in the 1930s by the emerging auto industry, which saw the number of fatal car accidents skyrocket in the previous decade and wanted to shift the blame from drivers to pedestrians.

Over the years, street designs have primarily considered the needs of drivers, disregarding people who are not in cars.

California has already begun to make changes. Until 2018, it was illegal for people to cross the street at a traffic light when the pedestrian countdown meter began to flash.

The first committee hearing for AB 2147 is scheduled this spring.