Driving While Black in New Jersey



our data as the Bloomfield is overwhelming the police are sweeping people in there based on race and they're making people pay enormous sums of their municipal budget as a black man you have that initial reaction like something could really happen to me right now it's not an easy filling every single time we really do not see our police officers racially profiling anywhere in this Township if we did we would be way out in front of it you take checks guys or credit cards if you cannot work out a payment plan and that the public is perceived as the cash cow for a municipality that's a very adverse relationship and that nothing good could come of it so you got a couple of choices and facing you first is to work out a negotiate a plea which is agreed to something that isn't true and you got to pay court costs it's a practical solution that works but doesn't make anybody happy except maybe the police department yeah second is tell him no plea set me down for a trial later cops have charged you with something you say it didn't happen and I completely believe you but you know the state court system don't put too much faith in it this is Bloomfield Municipal Court in Bloomfield New Jersey and a group of students from Seton Hall Law School have selected it as the focus of a study about how the police collect fines but crucially who do they collect the fines from you are here today because you already have received a motor vehicle complaint a criminal complaint or a notice to appear this is Professor Marc Denbo and some of the students conducting the study they're among the few white people in the room in the four weeks they've been taking notes on the race of the people appearing in traffic court they've noticed that most are black or Latino but Bloomfield is a majority white Township so why the discrepancy wall fines of penalties are due today you leave the courtroom the same way into the courtroom the warps my right there's a hallway and there's a payment window at the end of the hallway we take checks cash or credit cards if you cannot work out a payment plan you must come back in the courtroom I'll make a determination as to whether you meet the standard for time payments ever since Ferguson police practices have been in the spotlight but it's not just about the killing of unarmed black men that's a huge problem but much larger and scale are the thousands of day-to-day police interactions that often end in fines and set the tone of a department's relationship with the community waiving your right to a trial the only thing left for me to do is impose sentence understand that take for example Brian Neenah a Bloomfield resident who police stopped even though he hadn't committed a moving violation they told him it was because a woman had complained he was harassing her but he ended up with an 87 dollar fine for having tints on his windows he was also ticketed for three other violations that were eventually dropped none of which had anything to do with the alleged reason for the stop charlie I came out of Sunoco I had made it to my house before he was able to pull me over our part and when he had came up behind he turned off his lights when I was about a get on my vehicle to understand my vehicle he then came up to my window then asked me if I had harassed a lady and smoker I responded to him No he then asked me for my license and went back to his car to check if I had any warrants or anything like that he brought my license back knowing that I didn't have any warrants and then told me to step out the vehicle when I stepped out of the vehicle he then asked me if I had marijuana in my vehicle I had told him no that was one marijuana he's then told me that he was gonna search my vehicle so he searched my hope you didn't find anything he went back to his car and then he wrote me up about five summonses for my car and I reported to internal affairs I try to go the right way about it but nobody heard my case out so I just well so you actually reported this incident to internal affairs yes why did you feel that you had a case against the police because I felt like they pulled me over for one who's and to just give me five tickets out of the blue so I felt like it was a thing about Murray so I don't know if I was being picked that I don't know what it was about but they pulled me over and they were just trying to pick out things just to give me for some just to harass you or make money or something like that it sounds like you feel like you weren't at fault and that they didn't have a right to pull you over why are you paying your fine today and pleading guilty that I don't have like sufficient funds actually a fire lawyer or proceeding next time so I thought I'll just get it over with $87 may seem small potatoes on its own but the Seton Hall study established that seventy eight percent of the stops police make are of minorities in a town where only forty percent of the population are non-white many of those stops end in fines unrelated to the given reason for the stop which makes the black and Latino communities feel like they're being unfairly targeted or even taxed so what is driving while black like in Bloomfield 2x police officers turned civil rights activists who worked on the Seton Hall loss and study told the state could help us find out in a driving experiment we met up to inspect the test car I chose a suitably beat-up vehicle because they say the profile of ticketed cars seems to skew towards the lower income bracket you might not believe it but it's actually a rental you can rent a car in this condition in America so let's make sure everything works okay the lights looked good you have a tag of New Jersey tag that's displayed properly your left arm circles working perfect right charge signals working perfect be honest if I was the police I wouldn't even want to like go through this car yeah I'll let you know if I see any all right all right check out the rear Wow there's a mix CD in here oh my god there is an actual switchblade in here oh my god let me pull it off let's take a look at has a thumb latch – or does it go on so good thing we looked huh yeah everything looks good I mean it's a piece of junk but everything looks good it's an ugly ass car but hey the idea was simple drive around Bloomfield to see if a vehicle full of black men attracted the attention of the police in the driver's seat was former Philadelphia police officer Terence Jones with Seton Hall law student marquis whitney in the front passenger seat we decked the test vehicle out with cameras and followed in a separate car with a camera of our own which was driven by former New Jersey police officer rich Rivera we're just about to cross the city line into Bloomfield and the time is now just about 9:30 p.m. so now you're in Bloomfield it didn't take long for us to see that the police were out in force stopping cars eventually the police started biting they followed the test car for several blocks even as it made turns then in spite of his plans to drive by the book Terrance accidentally made an illegal left giving the police a reason to stop him the left sure enough he was immediately pulled over and ticketed the police had clearly followed the car for several blocks without any apparent reason but in the end there was a legitimate reason for the stop so we continued the experiment the real question is why did he start following us from the get-go he followed us for about a minute and a half or two side streets not even main roads then on Bloomfield Avenue right next to the Sunoco gas station where the Seton Hall study showed that Bloomfield PD made the highest number of traffic stops the test car was pulled over again but this time it was difficult to know why yeah so we're gonna pull over that Jackie's obstructing your view to want you okay what to what the jacket in the back obstructing your view the back of the rear which is not it's not obstructing my view at all i I can I can see perfectly out of it they checked the paperwork and when they found it was in order they let the test car go it's just you know real nerve-wracking you got cops on both sides flashlights in your face as a black man you have that initial reaction like something could really happen to me right now it's not an easy filling every single time our experiment was obviously anecdotal with mixed results but the Seton Hall report showed that during the four weeks their study focused on the most tickets were issued to non-residents people passing through town in the southern black part of Bloomfield that abuts black areas in East Orange in Newark the least number of tickets were given out in the wider northern end of town the report says this policing pattern suggests a de facto Border Patrol back at Seton Hall the students meet with Professor Denbo to discuss their more scientific findings discovered over the course of their studies our data is to Bloomfield is overwhelming the police are sweeping people in there based on race and they're making people pay enormous sums of their municipal budget off of the ticketing practices that were taking place and what do you do when you go into the court we go and we just observe the courtroom you know we we take down the data names ages townships what they're being charged for whether there are multiple charges whether they're being assessed court costs race for us one of the most obvious signs that this is occurring is that people were being pulled over and given tickets for things like failure to provide their licence or their registration without any reason for the stuff we did notice that certain tickets you have to come to court so even if it's a bogus violation you still have to pay a court fee so no matter what sometimes we found that the fees were more than the actual violation and all the people that line up and say you know what I know I'm not guilty I didn't do that but it's a lot easier for me just to pay this and not have to miss work it's a tax it's definitely another tax that's been levied upon them the report concludes that race-based ticketing is happening in Bloomfield but another way to interpret the data is that police are focusing their work in areas where blacks and Latinos make up the majority of drivers which in itself could be seen as discriminatory enforcement of traffic laws we took these findings to the director of police in Bloomfield what they found in their study is that the population of Bloomfield is 60% white but 80% of the traffic violations are given out to black and Latino drivers they want to know where does that discrepancy come from is that racial profiling in Bloomfield there is no racial profiling of Lafitte at all and I think if you look at the areas that the activity takes place are the areas in our township where our criminal activity is taking place and the area of the township that is predominantly white there's very little crime maybe 10% if the entire crime in the town takes place in that area where our south end of the township which borders Belleville east orange in Newark is where 75 to 80 percent of the crime takes place so in deploying our resources and where our officers are going to conduct their patrols they're going to conduct the patrols where the crime is taking place where it's going to be much less patrol in the areas where there's no activity I think to some extent we're talking apples and oranges here because you're giving me the statistics for crime so the racial breakdown of who's committing crime and we're and we're talking about traffic stops we're talking about you know violations for not using your turn signal for having a headlight out for not having your driver's license on you so I mean I think it's a stretch to call these kinds of things crime which is why I'm asking when so many minority people are getting tickets here is it a case of them being worse drivers no I don't believe so I mean I pulled our our motor vehicle stop data by race this morning before we did the interview to get it in real time and we're at 8 1814 motor vehicle stops for the year so far and 576 are Hispanic 573 white and 574 African American so it is pretty even across the board and if it ever spike stand and we'll investigate why yeah but what you just told me is really stark because 60% of the population of Bloomfield is white and only about 20% of the population is black you just told me that the traffic stops are roughly equal between the white and the black community so how do you account for that um like I said before it's basically where our police officers are deployed there's a higher concentration of police officers in areas of the township where our crimes are taking place and a much less concentration of police officers being deployed in areas where there's little or no crime you don't accept the findings of the study which is that the minorities are being disproportionately targeted in traffic stops in Bloomfield our officers from what we see and based on complaints and how we how we train we really do not see our police officers racially profiling anyone in this Township if we did we would be way out in front it it turns out this year Bloomfield has for the first time instituted a computer system that tracks race and police work and this new data seems to corroborate the results of the Seton Hall study the police are saying this is a result of them being deployed to areas where there is more crime which happens to be where blacks and Latinos make up the majority of drivers but the consequence of this policy is that blacks and Latinos are disproportionately ticketed and fined just for living in or passing through areas of police enforcement maybe the answer here is for the police to focus more on the crime and less on the traffic violations which are proving to be an unfair economic burden on a part of the community that can least afford it

33 comments

  1. It’s a universal law that those who have the least, the little that they do have shall be taken. Sad

  2. Around here and everywhere Ive been its poor people targeted period. Happens to me and I cant say anything.

  3. cops creep on people all of the time. they are running your plate and looking for faulty equip. standard procedure

  4. The Police Director came got served by the reporter when he started listing his statistics on the equal amount of traffic stops. Nope! Still isn't fair if anything, he proved the reporters point even more.

  5. Y'all wanna make it about race, but try to hide that it was a black cop that followed them first. It's a problem without trying to throw race into it.

  6. It's circular logic.

    If there are more police in one area targeting people they get more 'results' thus justifying them being there because of the 'high crime rate'.

  7. The problem here is the police departments are not understanding the disconnect between traffic stops and crime. Writing someone a citation for window tint being too dark is so different than preventing a home invasion or solving a murder. Ticketing people for ticky tack bullshit things does nothing to deter violent crime.

  8. ine solution would be to not allow any police agency to issue fines, that removes anyway to get revenue from the public, then you would have to take it from there but the justice system has no buisness accepting money in exchange for a 'crime' a traffic violatio where there is no one or personal property damage the only person hurt is the one making the laws

  9. 96% of you Blacks have criminal records and are parole violators, 98% smoke or sell weed or drugs! ..85% carry illegal guns and knives! Now you know why you Blacks get stopped, The rest are Gang Bangers…2% are actual students!

  10. This used to be a problem down south until recently; the cops would stop people asking about drugs, guns etc., until open carry gun laws were passed which then legally precluded then from asking about guns in a person's car or openly carried guns in public because they can now be sued in state superior courts and their departments held liable and have to payoff lawsuits; harassment stopped quickly; now if you're pulled over they don't ask if you have any guns in your care because if they do their whole prima facie reason for stopping you can be thrown out of court; this is in Georgia.

  11. they police the shithole neighborhoods where scumbag pimps and drug dealers operate….just probably

  12. Dirty White lowlifes cops in New Jersey isnt something new were in amerikkka and Racism is still Alive and well.

  13. I would not live or drive through bloomfield. Sad for POC that live there and don't have the funds to move.

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