Police department accused of racial profiling
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (WSVN) -- Racial profiling claims are being made against a South Florida police department after some recent arrests were investigated by a public defender.
The Fort Lauderdale Police are focused on the high-crime neighborhoods in the northwest sections of the city. "In this particular area alone, last year, we received over 1,000 complaints," said Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Frank Adderly. "Drug activity, prostitution, information that led to burglary arrests, robbery arrests, and this is probably the most active crime area in our city."
One of the deterrents used by the department is a 24-hour, 360-degree surveillance vehicle, called the Peacemaker. When homeowner Torren Poole was asked if he minded the vehicle sitting in his neighborhood, he said, "For one thing, it restores law on our street."
"He's doing 15 years right now," Poole said while showing a photo of a convicted criminal. "He tried to come in my house. I took the knife from him, he tried to stab me."
Poole's house has metal bars in front of the door for extra protection. "This lady's house right here, they broke in her house," said Poole. "They broke in Ms. Cooper's house, she's a school teacher. They broke into the three houses down. They broke into everybody's house on this street just about."
In a letter to the mayor of Fort Lauderdale about police tactics, public defender and 7News legal analyst Howard Finkelstein wrote, "One can only conclude that the City of Fort Lauderdale condones profiling of its citizens for 'walking while black'." The letter reads on to say, "Law enforcement in the City of Fort Lauderdale has decided to bully and intimidate at all levels."
Finkelstein provides the following example of his claims: police are citing people for not walking on the sidewalk, even when no sidewalks exist. "When you realize that of all the citations that are issued for walking or not walking on the sidewalk, 93 percent of them are African American," said Finkelstein. "It's not possible in Broward County to have 93 percent of black people responsible for violating any law when they don't even make up but 10 percent of the population."
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is now complaining of abusive behavior toward innocent pedestrians. "I think that if police went to Victoria Park and put their children who live in their neighborhood on the ground, I think there would be some concern about it," said Marsha Ellison of NAACP. "But because they are in our neighborhood, they are our children, somehow it's not an issue."
"If there is an issue with an officer in this department, I think our reputation speaks for itself," said Adderly. "We're going to address it."
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