Florida

He was cited for walking without an ID. He wants the officer off the force.

Florida police officer fines black man, threatens him with jail over jaywalking

Devonte Shipman was threatened with jail and issued a fine over alleged jaywalking following a June 20 incident in Jacksonville, Florida. Shipman recorded his interaction with an officer, named in reports as JS Bolen, in which Bolen threatens Ship
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Devonte Shipman was threatened with jail and issued a fine over alleged jaywalking following a June 20 incident in Jacksonville, Florida. Shipman recorded his interaction with an officer, named in reports as JS Bolen, in which Bolen threatens Ship

Devonte Shipman said he just wanted to protect himself when the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office officer called him over after he and a friend crossed Arlington Road on June 20.

Instead, the video of Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Officer J.S. Bolen threatening to jail the 21-year-old Shipman during a jaywalking stop and ticketing him for not carrying identification became the latest national touchstone in relations between law enforcement and young black men.

The American Civil Liberties Union tweeted about it as demonstrating a need for diversity and community policing training. CNN discussed it. Surfers of media sites from the Miami Herald to CBS News to the London-based Daily Mail watched and hyperlinked to the video that first appeared on Shipman’s Facebook page.

And questions about police overreaction in the face of dark skin arose as they did after the shootings of Philando Castile, a 32-year-old black man killed by Officer Jeronimo Yanez in Minneapolis last year, and Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old black boy killed by Timothy Loehmann, a Cleveland rookie police officer, in 2014.

Or, Sandra Bland, yanked out of her car during a traffic stop for failing to signal a lane change, who wound up hanging herself in a jail cell in Texas. The ruling of the 28-year-old woman’s death as a suicide got eyed suspiciously by family near and other black Americans far.

Or, on a quieter if more parallel note, former Miami Dolphins running back Ricky Williams, who found himself being questioned by four Tyler, Texas, officers while just out for a walk. Williams was suspected of hopping a fence behind a hotel to walk through a backyard.

The stated reason Bolen stopped Shipman was crossing against the light.

“I never knew anybody who got stopped for jaywalking,” Shipman told the Miami Herald. “I didn’t know you could be stopped for jaywalking. I thought, ‘How can it be a crime if you see it done so often?’ 

Shipman said he’s walked through the intersection at 1000 Arlington Road, a half mile from his home, hundreds of times. His antennae — and smartphone video — went up when Bolen got his attention.

“Just from everything that’s been going on nowadays with police and civilians, I wanted to make sure I was recorded,” he said. “There’s no telling what he would’ve done if I wasn’t recording.”

The video opens with Shipman asking without rancor what he did wrong. Bolen tells Shipman: “Take your camera and point it across there at the red hand,” and then says that Shipman and his friend crossed against the light.

“My bad,” Shipman says to Bolen, who tells him that jaywalking is a $65 fine and orders him to the police car.

Shipman, at first, refuses. He said the episode confounded him. “I was unsure of the whole situation. I didn’t know why he stopped me,” he told the Miami Herald. “I’m thinking, what did I do? You can’t take me to jail just because you feel like it.”

Bolen then threatens: “I’m about to put you in jail for resisting [an officer] without” violence.

As Shipman begins walking toward the car, Bolen asks for his identification. Shipman says he doesn’t have it and Bolen snaps, “That’s another infraction! In the state of Florida, you have to have an ID card on you identifying who you are or I can detain you for seven hours until I figure out who you are.”

Bolen ticketed Shipman for violating Florida Statute 322.15, driver’s license not carried/exhibited on demand. That covers only people driving a vehicle. No statute requires a pedestrian to carry identification.

Near the end of the video, Shipman points out a third JSO car coming on the scene for what’s still a jaywalking stop. His friend stands against another JSO car.

A group called the Jacksonville Community Action Committee asked its Facebook followers to demand Bolen’s firing. Shipman wasn’t as absolute.

Asked what he’d like to see happen to Bolen, Shipman said, “Either he gets suspended from the force, so he has to go to another county and we don’t have to deal with him in our community. Or he just has to get fired, period.”

Responding to a voicemail inquiring if Shipman’s video was under review or if Bolen was under investigation, JSO Officer Melissa J. Bujeda emailed the Herald, “It violates the law for us to identify any officer under investigation. It is confidential per state statute 112.533 until the investigation is concluded.”

David J. Neal: 305-376-3559, @DavidJNeal

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