Biking While Black Is a Crime

"Fort Lauderdale is the only city that requires you to have a sticker," he says, grin tightening to a grimace. "But the main thing, it gives them probable cause, so they're going to run your name."

The statute simply requires "any person residing within the city who owns any bicycle to register such bicycle with the police department." The registration fee is $1, and each bike is given a small decal to indicate compliance. "A police officer may take into possession and impound any bicycle being operated or possessed on all streets," the law reads, "when the bicycle does not have attached thereto a bicycle registration decal."

Although Hollywood and North Lauderdale have similar provisions, their laws are rarely enforced. Miami-Dade also has a bike registration program, but it's voluntary.

After a run-in with Fort Lauderdale PD, Ellsworth Knowles took his complaints about the bike ordinance to the Broward Public Defender's Office.
Kyle Swenson
After a run-in with Fort Lauderdale PD, Ellsworth Knowles took his complaints about the bike ordinance to the Broward Public Defender's Office.
Patrick Muhammad, left, Jerome Scott, and George Griffin would like to see the city remind residents that they must register bikes.
Marta Xochilt Perez
Patrick Muhammad, left, Jerome Scott, and George Griffin would like to see the city remind residents that they must register bikes.

New Times reviewed nearly 460 citations handed out by the Fort Lauderdale Police Department between July 2010 and June 2013. Many of the numbers and addresses are no longer valid. Many of those cited have criminal records. A count by Finkelstein's office revealed that fewer than one in three of the citations contained comments from police about why the stops were initiated.

Clutching a bag from Burger King, Telly Lockhart says he was riding his bike down NW 11th Place near Sunrise around 9:30 on a weeknight in 2011 when a patrol car rolled up.

In 1992, he'd been charged with delivery of cocaine, aggravated assault, and battery; in 2002, he was again in cuffs on a cocaine possession charge. But the then-36-year-old had been clean since, and he said as much as a Fort Lauderdale Police officer approached.

The officer said Lockhart's bike didn't have a light and asked if it was registered, Lockhart remembers. He answered that he'd just bought the beach cruiser from Walmart. The officer explained that the bike would have to go. After searching his pockets and finding no contraband, the cop said Lockhart could come down to the police station, pay the fine, and get back the bike.

"Man, I don't have transportation to get the bike. That's why I'm on a bike," Lockhart protested. Bikeless, he was never able to retrieve his cruiser. Instead, he soon got a valet job at a Nissan dealership and later bought a car, he says. "No doubt, they don't go into the upscale neighborhoods and do that."

In August of 2011, Ellsworth Knowles was steering his black bicycle to the Midway Food Market just off Broward Boulevard. About the only thing on the then-43-year-old's mind was whether he'd be picking a Dr. Pepper or a Pepsi out of the cooler.

Suddenly, plainclothes police officers were marching out of an unmarked car, asking Knowles if his bike was registered. The dreadlocked commercial painter whistled some expletive at the cops, then explained the registration didn't apply because he didn't live in Fort Lauderdale but in Pembroke Pines.

According to Knowles, who'd been charged with battery in 1989 and grand theft in 1995, the cops smashed his black beach cruiser against the ground, bending the chrome-trimmed wheels.

"It's essentially fishing for crime, as opposed to having legitimate reasons to see if a crime is committed," he says today. "If they're stopping and spending time harassing me on my bike, you might have a burglar on the next street breaking into someone's home."


The Fort Lauderdale Police chief stands at ease in the middle of the street, hands in his uniform pockets, lobbing the occasional hock of spit onto the pavement. Frank Adderley is average in size and build, his face a clean-shaven, all-business screen that rarely jumps with emotion. Right now, he's listening to the same story he hears all the time, today pouring from Torren Poole.

From his front lawn on a side street off Sistrunk, the 30-something homeowner ticks off his complaints: Prostitutes have sex on the roof of the building behind the house where he lives with his wife and two kids. Tween drug pushers are pedaling the streets till 4 or 5 in the morning. If something isn't nailed down here, it's as good as stolen. He's had to call police twice this week about disturbances. His own bike was just swiped off his lawn.

"Have you ever seen The Walking Dead, bro? Walkers, that's what we've got," Poole says. "It's a war."

"And according to Finkelstein," Adderley chuckles, a rare crack in demeanor, "we're not supposed to stop them on bicycles."

Crime stats show mixed results for the area. Some crimes — such as assault and residential burglary — steadily declined between 2011 and today. But narcotics arrests rose between 2011 to 2012, from 211 to 245 arrests, with 148 logged already for 2013. Prostitution has also climbed from 21 arrests in 2011 to 65 in 2012, with six arrests on the books for 2013.

Poole says that considering all the crime, he's all for police using a registration ordinance as probable cause to stop people (even though, he admits, his own bike wasn't registered). Better yet, he says, the cops should lock down the whole city after hours with a martial-law-style curfew. "The police need to do what they need to do.

"And you know how you can see [the criminals are] up to no good?" Poole adds. He mimes a hand-in-the-cookie-jar face, then nervously looks back over his shoulder. As if on cue, a moment later a stick-figure-thin black woman wobbles by on a bicycle. Before pushing into the next block, she peers back. "Prostitute," Poole suggests.

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38 comments
frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

...................................Lekeithra Smith should really "blame" the drug dealers and related crimes committed by drug abusers who cannot afford their drug habits = period

the sentiment she express should be directed against the very thing causing her anxiety about safely walking the streets at night - drug abusers needing a FIX but having NO resources

 "I had to walk the streets at night."

"I could get kidnapped or something. Anything can happen to either one of us because we're girls,"

IF this were my daughter or family member i would want as many POLICE protections available INCLUDING stopping EVERYONE within a ten mile radius and KEEPING THE STREETS CLEAN = period

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

..........................................CRIME caused by drug-use IS THE PROBLEM..............WHITE people don't INVENT reasons to hold BLACK people down, the POLICE don't INVENT reasons to hold BLACK people down, SOCIETY doesn't INVENT reasons to hold BLACK people down, ......................DRUG USE HOLDS BLACK PEOPLE DOWN = period

when this FACT sinks in, and it may never happen, then BLACK communities can fight DRUG USE themselves

maybe the POLICE should just wall off these places and let the residents do as much DRUGs as the want and then what ? of course we will hear that the POLICE aren't doing their jobs in keeping law and order off those streets - the community CANNOT have it BOTH WAYS

richbrobee
richbrobee

There is a basic principle that Chief Adderley and others don't understand yet. When you stop people WITHOUT probable cause, just because they are on bikes, or black, or in a poor neighborhood, or whatever ... it causes significant harm: 1) to the feeling of living in a place without undue police threat, and, 2) citizens will NOT report and cooperate with a police force that is not very careful to distinguish between wrongdoers and the rest of us. This "bad feeling" undoes all the good done by cracking down. I've been stopped twice without probable cause in Ft Lauderdale (on a bike both times) and I'm white, riding with black. This has got to stop or police will never get public cooperation which is the REAL ticket to what is happening and who the criminals are. I managed public housing successfully for 9 years. I know from experience.

gary
gary

I defy anyone to try to register a bike in Fort Lauderdale. I saw a link in the comments about an online Broward County registration.  But I mean IN FORT LAUDERDALE.  I have been stopped multiple times (even with a registered bike), but had to spend multiple hours and multiple days attempting to register my bikes because (1) the police don't know how or where to register bikes, (2) any information about location and hours to register bikes is obscure and likely inaccurate, and (3) no one answers the door at the bike registration offices, even at the hours posted on the DOOR of office (the location of which has changed twice since I registered my bikes).

davidbfeldman
davidbfeldman

I was interviewed for this article with Chief Adderley and I support what he is doing. Bicycles are considered vehicles under the law and the primary means of transportation in Dorsey Riverbend where I live and own my home is a bicycle...I am sorry, but the drug dealers on bikes are rampant here...and they will come right up to you. Cars have to be registered and if they require bikes to be registered, so be it...I want the drug dealers and the rest of the problems stopped...

tenmen
tenmen

in Texas it's, "I saw your car swerving"!  DO NOT TALK TO THE POLICE!!!  BE nice, give them identification and that is all you have to say, If they keep questioning,(which they will) , tell them you are so shook up that you can not think clearly and need to speak with an attorney!!  DO NOT TALK TO THE POLICE !!!  EVERTHING YOU SAY CAN AND WILL BE HELD AGAINST YOU!!!  They do not have to read you a Miranda warning to use whatever you say against you, NOT for you but AGAINST you.  They are Not there to serve you but to arrest you. They can lie, torture and use whatever means they want to extract a confession or get you to say something that they can turn and twist to get a conviction.  The scales of justice are NOT equal, just look at the rich and famous and how they get handled with kid gloves. Don't believe me, go on youtube and spend the day looking at people that this has happened to.

kcguitarplayer
kcguitarplayer

Cops do whatever they want, especially when we pass laws to encourage it. There are far to many laws restricting our freedom now and all you ever hear is, There Ought To Be A Law. Where does it stop? Normal people have no idea what goes on behind police station doors and in court rooms. They're used as a place for legal shake downs. Register a bicycle? Come on.

smdrpepper
smdrpepper topcommenter

This is just an idiotic ordinance.  If it was not targeting certain groups, then why do not every place that sells bikes automatically register those bikes?  Sorry, but this sounds more than a little bit fishy.

America
America

So this 5 pages of literary BS basically accuses the cops of enforcing a law they are sworn to enforce?  At the request of the area law abiding citizens? Am I missing the point here?  The paper would have been put to better use filled with head shop, pain clinic, strip joint and masseuse (prostitute) advertisements.

rybenn
rybenn

find something new to write about....

joeb104
joeb104

cry me a river, no sympathy, do the right thing.

Danny Morin
Danny Morin

Usually there's 3. yours, his, and what really happened.

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

.................WHAT ABOUT the deterent effect of reducing CRIME ? i also have been involved in PUBLIC HOUSING and the number one problem is DRUG ABUSE = period

living in a space with UNdue police threat is better than living in a space with UNdue DRUG dealing threat - the police will not get your children on DRUGs the dealers will, the police will not disrupt and trash your community the drug dealers will, the police will not encourage and support prostitution and criminal behavior yet the dealers will

just talk to the elderly who live in these crime riddled drug infested areas = most will say they will not cooperate with police because they are scared of the DRUG dealers,  not the police

in the PROJECTs that i have observed EVERYONE knew who was who - even when new drug dealers would replace drug dealer who were either killed or jailed EVERYONE knew who was who

any BAD feeling i observed were from residents who felt they were on their own to combat crime and drugs in their community without any of the police support

POLICE do not need public cooperation which will happen automatically IF AND WHEN the drug dealings and those related crimes to support drug habits no longer exist 

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

i bet if everything was the same EXCEPT the city would PAY people $20 to register these problems would evaporate !

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

....................the resistance i see is coming from DRUG DEALERS themselves disguised as "community leaders" who have a hand in the crime in those areas

i have also observed the SISTRUNK street itself designed as purposely narrow and as such very surveillable which is also a bane to the local drug industry which relys on stealth and deception YET it is intented to monitor and capture and not prevent DRUG CRIMES by BLACKs

in conclusion the reason it will NOT stop is because the DRUG INDUSTRY finances the many many police jobs and the overtime they all rely on to retire AND the drug dealers are protected by the local "community leaders" who also benefit financially  despite the damage it does to these BLACK families

one single DRUG DEALER could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to the judicial system payroll from arrest to conviction to jail to re-arrest and on and on

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

..........................yup that's how it works dude

America
America

@kcguitarplayer You're right.  NORMAL people don't know what goes on because NORMAL people aren't breaking the laws and getting arrested.  The officers are simply doing their jobs.  Attack the law, not the officers.  Kind of like hating the IRS for auditing you.  It sucks but thats their job.

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

...................................it's a depserate attempt at counter-acting DRUG DEALERs ways of delivering product and an attempt at using "probable cause" to stop and then frisk a suspicious BLACK person

what gets lost in mentioning "BLACK person" is the "DRUG DEALER" part  because in our modern world we should not be bias

unfortunately the NATION OF ISLAM has its representatives enforcing those sentiments and so the DRUG DEALERs thrive while the BLACK community will continue to be depleted by criminals abusing drugs and controlling the area at the expense of the poor innocent and typically either elderly or very young BLACK people stuck in those projects

nationally and historically none of these legal maneuvers ever work which is why they are more and more desperate each time - there is simply too much of a pull into DRUGs and abuse and crime to ever clean things up

WHICH IS WHY once a BLACK person can afford it - they move into a WHITE neighborhood

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

...........................the POINT you are missing AMERICA is the desperate situation these BLACK communities are in when DRUG DEALERS control the streets and the POLICE do not have the support of the victimized people that live there

this is not a BLACK thing or POLICE thing.....this is a DRUG thing = period

kcguitarplayer
kcguitarplayer

@Lenny Lebowitz Yeah, Why would we believe a black person? They all ride stolen bicycles, right? Be careful Lenny Lebowitz your name alone invites discrimination by some.

richbrobee
richbrobee

@frankd4 

I actually got rid of the drug dealers, but the cooperation with police came BEFORE, not after, the dealers were gone. The police do need cooperation; they are not as well informed as you may think. They met with me frequently. We kicked out the racist cops and kept the good ones who realized that the majority of residents were helpful IF THEY TRUSTED the cops (or manager) enough to be informants (an uncomfortable role). The actual drug dealers were NOT the obvious ill-behaved youth. The dealers' cover was to look respectable. This is why the facts, and probable cause (not outward appearance) are so important in actually solving the problem. We identified 7 dealers among 150 households and had them out within two years.

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

................................." Attack the law, not the officers " AMERICA

WELL the ft lauderdale police department is currently under scrutiny for its connection to SCOTT ROTHSTEIN and DIRTY BLONDEs

for one rothstein ponzi money may have purchaed an engagement ring worn by a POLICE DEPT SPOKESWOMAN who is ther finacee of a POLICE DEPT SEARGENT (who also flew on rothsteins private plane)

for another the POLICE DEPT arrested the patrons of dirty blondes based on THEIR POLICE INVESTIGATION until a video came out showing how badly that investigation had been BOTCHED resulting in the charges against those two patrons being dropped and FELONY BATTERY and misdemeanor battery charges being filed against the BOUNCERS (seems the sucker-punching, attacking from behind in a choke-hold, head kicking while patron was on the ground BOUNCERS were protected by the POLICE DEPT who worked as $45 per hour off-duty pawns of DIRTY BLONDEs operation)

kcguitarplayer
kcguitarplayer

@America Normal people do break the law everyday when they speed , litter, drive after happy hour ,use their country address to insure their city cars, hit dogs and don't stop, cheat on taxes, etc., but you are right they are not getting arrested because police selectively choose when and who they will enforce the law on.The problem lies in the type of people that are willing and even want to do these jobs. What type of person enjoys inflicting  problems on people who for the most part are just trying to ride their bicycle so to speak? I submit that there is something fundamentally wrong with this type of person. They know there are some people the public will defend and some that they won't so they go after the defenseless. These are usually people in poverty so they can't even afford what is always an expensive defense so they take a plea bargain that is the cheapest way out. This makes them guilty so the police and prosecutors elevate their status on the backs of these easy convictions. The story goes on and on so I'm sure as a normal person you are quite bored by these facts and so the problem grows.  

America
America

@kcguitarplayer The last sentence was sarcasm as those types of business are all that advertises in this rag.  But since you asked, I will be going to church this weekend.  Make sure the fries are hot because I like to stop by McDonalds after mass.  (That was sarcasm too.)

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

...........................and YES one of my earliest experiences in SECTION 8 housing in the BRONX was where the NATION OF ISLAM had the federal contract to provide "security" to the projects and these little BLACK kids in RED BOWTIEs were running all around - turns out the NATION OF ISLAM was collecting one hundred MILLION dollars nationally from t federal government section 8 housing program WHILE SELLING DRUGs in these same projects - their federal contract gave them ultimate and exclusive control of access to the building and residents excluding all "tresspassers"

trust no one when it comes to DRUGs = period

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

...........................................this isn't about PROBABLE CAUSE - each and every resident KNOWS the cause .....the exact CAUSE .......and in my example above it took a BOLD and decisive move to get the community to respond in a POSITIVE turnabout

if BLACKs learn that BLACK drug dealers are the scourge of their community and actively RID those characters OUT only then can things change - BUT BLACKs are loathe to rat out those criminally active BLACKs so they have to live in the trash with that trash = period

and YES those drug dealers may in fact be the "community leader" and NATION OF ISLAM representatives and supporters, and maybe even the POLICE themselves, or community committee members and elected officials

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

.............................................the trash had to leave withOUT even being able to go in and get their stuff - and every other resident was advised to immediately contact the SHERIFF if any of those characters came back and tried to enter the trailer

i never had a problem collecting RENTs either eventhough the residents had ALL been scammed and defrauded by the previous operator pending criminal charges stealing their past RENT payments

MY POINT IS the community knows who is who = period

frankd4
frankd4 topcommenter

................i DID NOT have the benefit of POLICE cooperation

it was a MOBILE HOME PARK in fort pierce that i was able to get rid of some nasty characters DESPITE the lack of direct cooperation with the local SHERIFFs deputies who gave me all manner of legaleeze as to why they couldn't react

while the drug dealers were out i simply had a small bulldozer push on and shift their residential  trailer off its foundation then had the town building code people come out and CONDEMN the trailer as UNINHABITABLE and had the fire department people put their yellow tape around it and had it declared UNOCCUPIBLE with violators SUBJECT TO ARREST upon entry - done - they were evicted in an afternoon

kcguitarplayer
kcguitarplayer

@America @kcguitarplayer THEY ARE ALL CRIMES. You are in denial or live in an egg shell. Who are all of those people at clubs and New years Eve parties if they are not normal people. They all drive home. If you think Pat Robertson( the biggest of criminals) or Pat Boone are examples of normal people you are very confused. To be even more precise there is no such thing as normal people, everybody thinks they are normal when in fact we are all flawed. If you don't climb off of your high horse one of those who are forced by circumstances to walk or ride an unregistered bicycle may drag you off. Have a nice ride while you can because if your high horse craps in the wrong place you may find yourself getting shook down by the very police and prosecutors you are defending.

America
America

@kcguitarplayer Some of the "crimes" you mention aren't even crimes and are therefore will not get you, or anyone, arrested.  If in your normal life you drive drunk, cheat on your taxes and have hit and run crashes, then you Sir aren't normal. Don't justify your lifestyle by calling it normal. Most people that become cops want to help their fellow man and never become rich doing it, unlike the public sector that is totally money motivated (like the guy that pays you minimum wage).  Last but not least, the lawyers (trying to become rich after paying their law school loans back and making their BMW payment) are the ones that made defending yourself in court a costly venture.  I do however agree its expensive because the free service out there (the public defender) is almost a sure way to get convicted because they are incompetent.

rusknative
rusknative

@kcguitarplayer African-Americans on bicycles include Obama riding on his girl's bike with his little helmet.  Palm Beach sucks, and the suckers that live there all swallow

kcguitarplayer
kcguitarplayer

Mcdonalds, fries? Is that sarcasm aimed at African-Americans on bicycles? Your sarcasm lacks point and wit and your story has grown tiresome, now is the time in Palm Beach when we dance.

 
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