Black drivers in Florida twice as likely as whites to get seatbelt tickets, ACLU finds

Black drivers in Florida twice as likely as whites to get seatbelt tickets, ACLU finds
by Tanzina Vega UMT Features 1444846370

​ Black drivers in Florida are nearly twice as likely to be ticketed for seatbelt violations than whites, according to a new report from the American Civil Liberties Union released Wednesday. And in some counties, black drivers are getting ticketed at much higher rates.While black motorists made up 13% of the overall population of drivers in the state, they received 22% of all seatbelt citations in 2014, the ACLU found. If black drivers were given tickets in proportion to the number of drivers they represent in the state, officers would have issued 16,572 seatbelt citations to black drivers last year as opposed to 36,868.
“These racial disparities raise serious concerns that officers are engaging in racial profiling when enforcing the state’s safety belt law,” said Nusrat Choudhury, an attorney with the ACLU and a co-author of the report.

The ACLU also found that there was very little difference between blacks and whites when it came to wearing seatbelts. According to data from the Florida Department of Transportation that was cited in the report, authorities observed that 85.8% of blackswore a seatbelt in 2014 compared to 91.5% of whites.
That disparity cannot account for blacks being ticketed at almost twice the rate of whites, said Choudhury. “You would have to see blacks using seatbelts at about half the rate of whites to justify the disparity statewide,” she said.

Since 2005, law enforcement agencies in Florida have been required by law to report the race of the drivers they cite for safety belt violations. Yet, the number of agencies reporting race statistics has dropped from 293 departments to 147 in 2014, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
Of the counties that have reported these statistics, some ticketed black drivers for seatbelt violationsat higher rates than the overall state average. In Escambia County, for example, black drivers were four times more likely than white drivers to be stopped and cited for safety belt violations. (Though the last year that the county reported data on race was in 2011.)

In Palm Beach County, blacks were 3 times more likely than whites to be stopped and cited, and in Orange County, blacks were 2.8 times more likely to be ticketed than whites. Both of these counties reported data through 2014.
CNNMoney reached out to several law enforcement agencies mentioned in the report, but they did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
Amber Southard, the public information officer for the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office, said the department had received the report after business hours Tuesday. “We are still currently going over the data and we are working with our local chapter of the ACLU.”
Teri Barbera, the director of the media relations bureau of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office sent links to two online videos of officers promoting pedestrian safety but did not respond specifically to the ACLU findings.


ACLU is calling on the Florida Legislature to create a sanction for law enforcement agencies that fail to report demographic data, which, according to the report, include those in Miami, Tampa and Jacksonville/Duval counties.
The report also calls on the Florida Attorney General Office of Civil Rights to investigate the counties where racial disparities are higher than the state average.

Urban Media Sports Report

pitt fla state

Jeter’s 23 Leads Pitt to impressive 90-71 victory over Va. Tech

The Pitt Panthers got back on the winning side of things as they welcomed the Virginia Tech Hokies to the Petersen Events Center and then sent them home after defeating them 90-71. It was Pitt’s most complete game since ACC Play started and it was a much-needed win after their crushing defeat to Clemson last week. www.urbanmediatoday.com

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Pittsburgh to Serve as Pilot for Federal Wrap-Around Effort to Combat Opioid Addiction

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Representatives from both local and federal government joined together at UPMC Passavant Hospital Foundation Conference Center in Allison Park Tuesday to announce Pittsburgh’s selection as the first pilot city for the United States Drug Enforcement Agency’s new 360 Strategy. Other cities also piloting the effort are Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Saint Louis, Missouri; and West Memphis, Arkansas.

Described as “a comprehensive approach to tackle the cycle of violence and addiction generated by the link between drug cartels, violent gangs, and the rising problem of prescription opioid and heroin abuse in US cities,” the strategy seeks to combine efforts of law enforcement, drug manufacturers, physicians and pharmacists and local citizen organizations.


         United States Attorney David Hickton, who has been active in working to combat illegal drugs, talks about his relationship with members of Bridge to Hope (bridge2hope.org/)  a support group for those affected by addiction of loved ones.

“I thought the best way we could extend the conversation with Bridge to Hope is to tell them how hard we are working on this problem,” Hickton says.

Dominic Marks, a member of Bridge to Hope, says a federally-funded analysis shows more than 23 million addicts are either active, or recovering from addiction, in the US.

“To see the impact, you need to take that number and raise it by the number of family members who are then the collateral damage of substance abuse,” Marks says. “Families for too long have struggled not having education for this disease nor involvement in evaluation, treatment or the recovery process. That needs to change.”

“This epidemic of addiction we are currently facing is of epidemic proportions. We are fighting a disease that is so stigmatized by society that it drives users and their families underground,” Marks says. “When families are faced by a loved one’s addiction, they are traumatized by fear and the chaos it delivers. I know this first-hand, because my daughter has this disease, and it almost destroyed my family.”

Marks credits Bridge to Hope for helping his family through his daughter’s road to recovery, providing insight and hope while he and his wife were blinded by grief.

“We know there are some specifics that need to be addressed,” Marks says. “We need to stop the overprescribing of opioid medications; we need to increase the number of treatment facilities and available beds; we need to extend the length of treatment — recovery is not a 14- or 28-day stay at a rehab facility; we need to educate families, and all forms of media, so they are aware of what services and treatment are available if a loved one is facing this disease; and lastly, but most importantly, we need to work at all levels of society to remove the negative stigma associated with this disease.”

“I cannot emphasize enough: This is a disease,” Marks says. “It is not a character defect, it is not a flaw that can be willed away. It is an lifetime incurable brain disease, but it is treatable, and those who have been in long-term recovery have gone on to become productive members of society.”

Gary Tuggle, Special Agent in Charge of DEA’s Philadelphia Field Division, which also includes Pittsburgh, says Bridge to Hope families are victims of illicit drug use.

“These folks are the folks who really carry the costs and consequences of drug us in this country,” Tuggle says. “I just wanted to say how much I admire their strength and courage.”

The Agent, who started his career in Baltimore, Maryland, says he has lived through three drug epidemics.

“One was post-Vietnam, when I was a child growing up in Baltimore, and it was a heroin epidemic, pretty bad, when folks came home from Vietnam addicted and it became generational,” Tuggle says. “The second was the crack epidemic of the 80s, hugely violent and devastating to our communities.”

“The heroin epidemic that you see today dwarfs both of those, and it dwarfs both because those epidemics didn’t have a ‘feeder system,’” Tuggle says. “The feeder system that we are seeing to the heroin epidemic today is the misuse of prescription opioids.”

Prescription opioids are a class of drugs meant to be used to relieve pain in the most severe cases, including hydrocodeine (Vicodin); oxycodones like OxyContin, or Percocet; morphine, codeine and other related drugs, according to the National Institutes on Health.

Tuggle says there is a national threat from the prescription opiate and heroin epidemic.

“This country has an insatiable appetite for drugs,” Tuggle says. “We represent less than five percent of the world’s population, yet we consume about 99 percent of all the hydrocodone produced in the world. In Pennsylvania alone, last year we had 2500 overdoses, more than 51 percent of them related to opiates.”

During its long-term search for solutions to the problem, Tuggle says, “we have been good about going after those biggest, baddest, most-violent drug-trafficking organizations out there. We haven’t been so good about engagement in the community at the level we should, but that is going to change.”

Tuggle says the 360 Strategy means that the DEA will continue to “go after those large-scale drug trafficking organizations. We are going to continue to be in the community doing enforcement efforts. The one thing that is going to change is that we are going to engage the community so that after those enforcement efforts are done, we have non-traditional partners step in behind us, to fill what we call ‘time and space.’ So, it will be that opportunity to get treatment, prevention, education, job training and other wrap-around services in the community so we can actually attack the demand.”

“But not with handcuffs,” Tuggle says. “We are not going to arrest our way out of this. We have to look at these partnerships in a non-traditional manner, and get away from the gun carrier philosophy.”

“We are missioned to go after the big, bad dealers,” Tuggle says. “But after we do that, there is going to be a void, where either more drug traffickers will step up, or more folks will become addicted, or more folks will come in and prop up the demand for heroin. We want to replace those folks with you: We want to get, with those wrap-around service providers, treatment, education, job-training, faith-based organizations who can step in and fill that void.”

Some partners with both local and national “reach” are already signed on, including the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America, the DEA Educational Foundation, The Elks Club and Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.

Tuggle says Bridge to Hope and organizations like it are examples of how to “embrace the 360 Strategy, and use them in the community as a ‘force multiplier’ for our efforts by getting them into the community to make folks aware of what we are doing.”

The third “pillar” of the 360 Strategy deals with the approximately 1.6 million registrants regulated by the DEA nationally.

“These are individuals and organizations licensed by DEA to dispense, manufacture and prescribe controlled substances,” Tuggle says. “In this 25-county area [surrounding Pittsburgh] alone, we have about 22 thousand registrants. So, if one percent of those prescribers or licensees ‘goes off the reservation,’ that is a crisis in your community that will put prescription opiates on the street and cause addiction.”

“We are going to be making industry aware, and be working with them to come up with better prescribing practices, but, for those rogue dispensers, prescribers, we are going to be extremely aggressive, and we are going to bring them to justice,” Tuggle says.

“Obviously, prescription drug abuse leading to heroin abuse has become a well- recognized problem, and we are still figuring out the best ways to treat it and to take care of it from the medical side,” says Dr. Michael Lynch, an Emergency Physician at UPMC. “We know that a large part of it starts with the prescribing habits, and that is another obstacle we have to tackle.”

“The DEA has data now that most heroin users’ first use of an opioid is a prescription opioid,” Lynch says. “Most of those opioids come from a doctor, or from a friend who has been prescribed the opioid by a doctor. Most of those doctors are well-meaning.”

“This will not happen from a law enforcement approach by itself. It will require all sectors of the community coming together,” says Carlton Hall, Deputy Director of Training and Technical Assistance for Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America, which represents more than 5000 anti-drug coalitions in all 50 states and the US Territories, and 20 other countries.

Hickton says County Executive Rich Fitzgerald has been generous in providing county resources and data to aid in efforts to combat the epidemic. Other county officials involved have been Dr. Karen Hacker of the Allegheny County Health Department, Marc Cherna and Erin Dalton from the Department of Health and Human Services, Mary Esther Van Shura, County Director of Community Relations, Medical Examiner Carl Williams.

“Whatever we have achieved so far has been the result of what Rich and [Pittsburgh Mayor] Bill Peduto have done,” Hickton says.

“One of the hallmarks of success we have had in may initiatives in this region is collaboration,” Fitzgerald says. “When we have problems, we solve them by working together, so I appreciate the fact that we have a US Attorney who has been chosen to lead this fight nationally. It bespeaks the leadership that US Attorney Hickton has shown over the last few years.”

“US Attorney Hickton was sounding the alarm about this years ago,” Fitzgerald says. “About how prescription drugs, the painkillers and the opioids, are the gateway into addiction. We have to make sure we stop that, and are here to work any way we can with all of our partners.”

“It is a team effort, and the City of Pittsburgh is on board,” Peduto says. “Our Controller Michael Lamb is here, and our Police Chief Cameron McLay.”

“Obviously we have looked at this as a law enforcement issue, and we have failed,” Peduto says. “There are people whose lives are being destroyed, and it’s not just those who are taking the drugs, it’s their families too. They are losing control of their lives, and we aren’t doing enough to help.”

Peduto says the City will also assign resources, not only from the Bureau of Police but also from the Law Department and the Bureau of Neighborhood Empowerment, who will reach out to faith-based organizations, community organizations, and others who deal with addiction issues.

“We will treat the individual as we tackle the crime,” says Peduto.

The DEA will assign additional personnel to the area temporarily to help with investigations, including two additional “diversion investigators,”  agents, analysts and investigators as needed.

A December conference will bring pharmacists to town to discuss deterrent efforts, like how to recognize fake prescriptions or take notice of those who “doctor shop” to obtain the same prescription from different doctors simultaneously.

“We need to stop sacrificing our loved ones to a disease that can be managed and treated,” Marks says. “We need compassion and empathy to take over for scorn and repugnance. We can, and we will, should be our motto going forward.”

“We are, right now, experiencing an epidemic that will not be solved in a short period of time, but we have to work together,” Tuggle says. “We’re here, we’re in the communities, and we are not going anywhere. We are going to be vigilant about how we do this, and guess what? We are open to conversations, and we are open to recommendations.”

By Nancy Hart

Nhart543@gmail.com

Twitter: @nhart543

A Few People you should learn more about during Black History Month

The basic objective of Black History Month is to help Blacks and other people learn more about the history of Blacks and appreciate their contribution to the world’s civilization. Of course, the best way to learn this is to check some of the people who made such contributions. The following is a list of people who deserve everyone’s attention.

Eartha Kitt

Eartha Mae Kitt
Eartha Mae Kitt

The younger generations probably don’t know this name, but back in the days, Eartha Mae Kitt was a very popular actor, singer, comedian and dancer. If we take a close look at her career, we will notice that Kitt was something like Beyonce of the 40s and 50s. She had a typical life for a Black person of that time. She was born in 1927 on a cotton plantation farm in South Carolina. She had a very stressful childhood because she was actually a result of a rape – the landowner raped her mother. This is the reason why her mother left South Carolina and settled in New York City and Eartha moved there when she was still under 18 years old. But, this move has proven to be useful because she soon stepped into the world of showbiz. Her role in the Dr. Faustus movie by Orson Wells made her a superstar. She also appeared in many popular TV shows and movies after that, but what makes Kitt special is the fact that she was a devoted activist for human rights. She continued to raise her voice against social injustice until she died in 2008.

Henry Louis Gates Jr.

Another person who deserves to be mentioned during Black History Month is Henry Louis Gates Jr. He is a famous historian born in 1950. He was actively involved in many mini-series although his main work is in the field of cultural and history studies. What is interesting is that Gates Jr. was the first Black person to get an Andrew Mellon Foundation Fellowship. In addition, Henry Louis Gates Jr. gave the so-called Jefferson Lecture which is a great honor because this activity is organized by the federal government and only exceptional intellectuals have the chance to give this lecture. Ironically, Gates Jr. was involved in a case of racial profiling a couple of years ago when he was questioned by the police when he was trying to enter his home.

Jean Baptiste Point du Sable

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This famous Black person was actually the first resident of Chicago on record. Even though Chicago area was settled before, he was the first recorded permanent resident in this area in the late 18th century. He constructed a cabin on the Chicago River where he lived with his wife and children. Jean Baptiste was able to establish good relations with the native Indians in this region. As a matter of fact, they respected him so much that he agreed to show him some of the survival, hunting and other skills they knew. Thanks to his newly acquired knowledge du Sable opened several trading posts. Another interesting fact is that Jean Baptiste and his wife were the first married couple in Chicago. In addition, he was in trouble with the British army during the American Civil War because they thought that he was a spy.  There is no doubt that Mr. Du Sable was an extraordinary man with many skills and he is definitely a symbol for a persistent and clever Black person.

Anna Arnold Hedgeman

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Of course, there are many important Black women that should be mentioned too and Anna Arnold Hedgeman is one of them. Anna was a politician, writer and civil rights activist. She was the first Black student in one of the most famous universities in Montana – Hamline University. She finished college without any problems and decided to become a teacher. During her work she noticed many cases of racial injustice and that’s why she decided to take some action. She started introducing certain changes in the Howard University where she worked as an assistant dean of women. Hedgman was the first Black woman on a mayoral cabinet position in New York. On top of that, she wrote several interesting books like The Trumpet Sounds, The Gift of Chaos and many essays and articles mostly related to civil rights. Anna Arnold Hedgeman has inspired many young African-American women in their efforts to get better education. With a role model like this, it is not hard to find inspiration and motivation.

 

Cons of the right to own a gun in the United States

The second amendment of the Constitution of the United States highlights the right to bear arms. Unfortunately, the high crime rate and the increased number of homicides has made gun control and the right to bear arms one of the hottest topics in American society in the last few years. There are many people who are satisfied with this amendment and they support this right to bear arms without any limitations. However, there are a growing number of people who are asking for gun control and some of them believe that only law enforcement officers can own and use guns. It doesn’t really matter which side you support, it is the best idea to learn more about all the advantages and downsides of this issue. In this article we will focus on the cons of the right to own a gun in the United States.

  1. According to some statistics, people who are carrying a gun to protect themselves have greater chances to be shot in case assault occurs. In other words, firearms cannot guarantee safety and they are not a very efficient type of self-defense. What is even worse is that many gun owners don’t have appropriate training and this makes the situation even more complicated because in case they need to use their gun they can put their own life and the people around them at risk.gunCon
  2. Even though the studies and surveys focused on the effects of this amendment and crime rates are contradictory, we must point out that many experts argue that more guns mean more crime because many offenders carry and use guns (legally obtained guns). They also like to point out that they encourage people with suicidal thoughts to take their own life. More than 50% of the suicides in the United States involved a gun.gunCon2
  3. Another con of the right to bear arms is the fact that people who don’t want or need guns feel uncomfortable when people around them walk armed. Of course, this problem can be related only to the right to carry gun in public. Many people say that can’t tell whether the person carries the gun legally or they are criminals who are causing fear.
  4. There are also many experienced lawyers who claim that the Constitution doesn’t guarantee the right to bear arms to every US citizen. They claim that this amendment allows regular citizens who decide to join the army or who are called to military service to get the right to carry weapons.
  5. Another valid point is that the criminals will become more aggressive and even arm themselves if they know that people usually carry firearms. They will look for a way to protect their lives.
  6. Finally, those who are pro gun control say that guns can easily become lethal especially when they are in the hands of people who have abused alcohol or drugs or people who cannot control their temper.

The list of cons is long, but so is the list of pros. It is up to the people and the authorities to decide whether guns should be controlled or not.

Pros of the right to own a gun in the US

For those who didn’t know, the right to bear arms is a constitutional right. This right can be found in the second amendment of the US constitution. More than 200 years ago, the Founding Fathers of the United States have decided to grant this right to American citizens and they have called it a natural right. In the recent period, there are many debates between experts and ordinary people about gun control and the growing number of gun-related accidents and incidents. Obviously, there are some disadvantages of the right to own a gun and bear arms, but the truth is that there are many pros too. So, what exactly are the pros related to this right?

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  1. First of all, the right own and use a gun in certain circumstances guarantees better self protection. There is no doubt that guns are very effective when it comes to handling unprovoked attacks, protecting your life and the life of your family. The constitution and other laws give people the right to use guns against other people when they are physically attacked. This right has saved the lives of many people and we can confirm this through statistics related to gun-related incidents.
  2. Even though this argument might be perceived as emotional, the truth is that many Americans consider this right to be a true symbol of freedom. People who own guns don’t need to use them in order to feel this individual liberty. The fact that they own a gun is sufficient. Obviously, there are few other mechanisms to protect our freedom, but none of them is as effective as this one.
  3. Some supporters of this right, argue that without it many people won’t care whether they have committed criminal acts in the past. The truth is that only people with clear history can own a gun. In addition, people who own guns must complete a few courses before they actually get the gun. Finally, the right to carry concealed weapon in public is obtained after several other criteria are met.
  4. According to some stats and projections, armed citizens can lower the crime rate. Armed citizens can reduce the cases of homicides by about 9% and the cases of rapes by 5%. This might not sound like a huge figure to some people, but thousands of homicides and rapes are committed in the United States each year.
  5. There are also some people who say that the fact that there are so many illegal firearms in the United States, makes owning a legal gun quite logical. This means that when people are dealing with armed criminals they should have the capability to defend themselves and using a gun is the only way to protect yourself from an armed criminal willing to use their weapon.

These are only some of the Pros that gun supporters use and it seems that even though some regulations related to gun control are changing, the right to bear arms won’t be affected in the near future.