Police Community Relations

THE PROBLEM

Thousands of African-American and Hispanic residents of our County experience being stopped by Police for things like –

  • Rolling stop
  • Failure to signal a turn or lane change
  • Light out or too dim on the license plate, or license plate border obscuring part of the license plate, or sticker in the wrong place on the license plate

We often perceive these stops to be “investigatory” - more about a desire on the part of the Officer to criminally investigate, than the reason provided for the stop. In fact, in many stories we’ve heard, a reason is never even provided. Sometimes we are asked intrusive questions– such as “Whose car is this?” or “What are you doing in this area?”

According to University of Kansas Professor Charles Epp, author of the book “Pulled Over,” these are likely stories of classic “investigatory stops.” In the book, Epp writes –

“Officers making investigatory stops commonly have decided to carry out a criminal investigation before they make the stop; they then identify, or create, a pretext to justify the stop.”

One big piece of the problem here in Palm Beach County is that our Sheriff’s Office and the majority of our Police Departments do not track all of the stops they make; therefore, there is no way currently to track if there is disparity in who they are stopping.

Most Recent Update

In our 2016 house meetings, we heard stories of black and brown members of our community being pulled over for discretionary stops. These were often perceived to be due to one’s skin color or ethnicity. Upon further research, we learned that police departments aren’t tracking data that would show if racial profiling is occurring. Without data to show it is or isn’t happening, the police departments can’t take the necessary steps to address this problem. PEACE met with Dr. Jack McDevitt, an expert on this type of data collection, and hosted a summit with 5 local police chiefs. We are moving forward with this work and will be following up with Boynton Beach, Delray, and Jupiter police chiefs. Over the summer we had success getting Sheriff Bradshaw on board with this idea. He has agreed to meet with Dr.
McDevitt in January. This year we will focus on getting Sheriff Bradshaw to enter into a formal agreement to collect and analyze this data.
Additionally, this committee will be focused on getting our juvenile civil citations usage rate up to at least 85%. Currently our usage hovers around 62% and our County locks up around 200 kids each year for making childish mistakes. We believe the number of kids being arrested could be dramatically decreased by having another agency review arrest paperwork before it is processed. State Attorney Aronberg and Sheriff Bradshaw are open to fixing this problem. This year, we’ll be focused on making this necessary process change so that no more kids are arrested needlessly.

At our Nehemiah Action, we secured commitments from three Police Chiefs (West Palm Beach, Boynton Beach, and Delray Beach) to attend a meeting with Dr. Jack McDevitt, and to consider a program of data collection and analysis.

STAY TUNED AS THIS EFFORT CONTINUES!

If you are interested in joining the police-community relations committee and to get updates on the campaign please contact PEACE's lead organizer Paige at 

(207)-956-1325 or paige@peacepbc.org