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Beyond ‘Stand Your Ground’: Florida’s Other Racial Profiling Practices

Beyond ‘Stand Your Ground’: Florida’s Other Racial Profiling Practices

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Despite legislation against racial profiling, the “Stand Your Ground” law is just one of several ways in which Florida practices it.
Despite legislation against racial profiling, the “Stand Your Ground” law is just one of several ways in which Florida practices it.

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Published by: Center for American Progress on Oct 11, 2013
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05/15/2014

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1Center or American Progress | Beyond ‘Stand Your Ground’
Beyond ‘Stand Your Ground’
Florida’s Other Racial Profiling Practices
By Sarah Iverson October 11, 2013
 While he rayvon Marin case is receding rom he public’s memory, he Florida Senae Judiciary Commitee held a hearing earlier his week o revisi some o he conroversialcomponens o he sae’s “Sand Your Ground” law. In a rare insance o biparisanship,he commitee merged wo bills being considered—he Republican-led S.B. 130 and heDemocra-led S.B. 122
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—ino new join legislaion ha would change he law. Te joinlegislaion requires local law enorcemen agencies o issue guidelines or neighborhoodcrime-wach programs and sipulaes ha anyone who provokes a violen conrona-ion may no hide behind he Sand Your Ground deense.
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Te compromise bill alsoincludes a conroversial provision ha would allow hird paries o sue someone orinjury or deah resuling rom sel-deense.
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Te Florida Senae Judiciary Commiteeapproved he bill on uesday, and he bill will now move o he Senae Criminal JusiceCommitee, bu i will likely ace much resisance rom he more conservaive HouseCriminal Jusice Subcommitee.
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 Te Florida Senae Judiciary bills are seps in he righ direcion, bu ulimaely weneed o ge rid o all Sand Your Ground laws and enac common-sense laws ha do noallow people o shoo rs and ask quesions laer. Te exisence o Florida’s Sand YourGround law, as well as he Sanord Police Deparmen’s handling o he rayvon Marincase, speak o a wider pahology in American racial atiudes, one ha creaes a climaein which racial proling can coninue.
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George Zimmerman’s ac is a sympom o adecades-old, ongoing problem o racial proling in Florida—and across his naion—and is a problem ha expresses isel in orms such as he Sand Your Ground law,sop-and-risk laws, rac sops, airpor securiy screenings, and oher laws ha serve ocriminalize youh behavior.Racial proling by law enorcemen ocers, jusied by he War on Drugs and he War on error, makes racial sereoyping by law enorcemen, pseudo-law enorce-men ocers such as Zimmerman, lawmakers, or oher privae ciizens accepable. InFlorida alone, Amnesy Inernaional esimaes ha here were 2,068,792 insances o 
 
2Center or American Progress | Beyond ‘Stand Your Ground’
racial proling in 2000.
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Arican Americans accouned or 47 percen o all insances o racial proling in Florida, while Lainos accouned or 23 percen, muliracial individu-als accouned or 19 percen, Asian Americans accouned or 11 percen, and whiesaccouned or 3 percen.
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Tis issue brie ocuses on curren racial proling pracices inFlorida—including Sand Your Ground—and looks a several examples o individuals who were deemed suspicious solely because o heir skin color. Alhough explici proling is echnically prohibied under Florida law, saisics speak ohe ac ha cerain policies in Florida promoe unequal enorcemen o he law.Based on he evidence presened below, here is a srong patern o law enorcemenocers in Florida making assumpions based on racial sereoypes, especially o Arican Americans and Hispanics. Aer examining he hisory and impac o racial prolingpracices, his brie provides an overview o curren policy proposals ha would endracial proling.
‘Stand Your Ground’ laws
Florida’s Sand Your Ground law allows individuals o use deadly orce in maters o sel-deense even when less orce or no orce could diuse he siuaion. Tis law and similarlaws ha exis in 21 oher saes, combined wih loose concealed carry laws, prove o bedeadly or communiies o color.
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Weak gun laws in saes such as Florida pu guns in hehands o dangerous people—such as Zimmerman, who has a criminal hisory and recordo domesic abuse
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—and hereore exacerbae he dangers o Sand Your Ground laws. An analysis o more han 200 cases in Florida ha invoked he Sand Your Ground law ound ha deendans claiming sel-deense were more likely o prevail i he vicim was Arican American. Seveny-hree percen o hose who killed an Arican American per-son aced no penaly under he law, compared o 59 percen o hose who killed a whieindividual.
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Sand Your Ground laws also exacerbae he large racial dispariies haexis when homicides are ruled jusiable: When he shooer is whie and he vicim is Arican American, he jusiable homicide rae is 34 percen, compared o a rae o 3percen when he shooer is Arican American and he vicim is whie.
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Overall, homi-cide raes have increased by 8 percen in saes wih Sand Your Ground laws—evidenceha he laws encourage he escalaion o violence in oherwise nondeadly siuaions.
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Unequal reamen under hese laws and varying legal inerpreaions o heir purview led U.S. Atorney General Eric Holder o call or heir re-examinaion. Tis all, heFlorida Sae Legislaure has been holding hearings on Sand Your Ground,
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and heU.S. Commission on Civil Righs voed o invesigae wheher he laws have a racial bias.
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Bu while Sand Your Ground laws accoun or a number o insances o racialproling in Florida, he conversaion canno sop here. Oher pracices in Florida show a larger rend o policies ha acily sancion he sereoyping o minoriies.
 
3Center or American Progress | Beyond ‘Stand Your Ground’
 Traffic-stop and stop-and-frisk laws
In 1985, Presiden Ronald Reagan creaed he Souh Florida ask Force, a ederal ani-crime ask orce ocused primarily on drug-relaed oenses, planing he seeds o racialproling among rac enorcemen ocers. Esablished as par o he War on Drugs,he Florida Deparmen o Highway Saey and Moor Vehicles creaed guidelines orrac sops called “Te Common Characerisics o Drug Couriers.” According o he American Civil Liberies Union, law enorcemen ocials were insruced o be suspi-cious o drivers wearing “los o gold” who did no “ he vehicle,” as well as “ehnicgroups associaed wih he drug rade.”
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 Tese guidelines resuled in Florida rac sops ha disproporionaely aecedminoriy drivers. According o one sudy, Arican Americans and Lainos accounedor 70 percen o hose sopped by members o he highway parol—a disproporionaegure, since hose groups comprised only 5 percen o drivers. Minoriy drivers werealso deained or longer periods o ime per sop han whie drivers and comprised 80percen o hose whose cars were pulled over and searched, hus becoming vicims o sop-and-risk sops. Tese sops were ineecive in prevening drug crimes or evenrac crimes. Only 9 o he 1,100 people sopped during he sudy were arresed orpossession o illegal conraband or ickeed or a violaion.
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Racial proling hrough rac sops became so commonplace ha sheri’s depuiesin Florida vicimized one o heir own. In 1997, a major in he Mero-Dade PoliceDeparmen, Aaron Campbell, was driving on he Florida urnpike when he waspulled over by Orange Couny sheri’s depuies, who wresled him o he ground,hi him wih pepper spray, and arresed him. O his experience, Campbell said, “Temajoriy o people hey are searching and humiliaing are black people. Ta’s why I was so angry. I wen rom being an ordinary ciizen and decoraed ocer o a criminalin a mater o minues.”
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By 1999, highway parol ocers in Florida were prohibied rom proling o any kind, bu he pracice was ully embedded ino he ehos o many on he orce, and i con-inues oday.
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In 2009, or example, a 48-year-old Arican American man rom Floridanamed Jerey Dowling led a lawsui ha accused Florida police o alse arres and violaing his civil righs.
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A ederal judge ruled ha Dowling was wrongly handcuedand risked and awarded him $62,500. Mos recenly, in May 2013, a Florida eld-raining ocer was charged wih ocial misconduc or insrucing rainees o arge“Bravo vehicles” during rac sops. Te ocer explained ha “Bravo” reerred o black people.
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