Police in Tulsa, Oklahoma, made headlines this week when they violently detained two teenage African American boys, and arrested one, for walking down a quiet street that didn’t have a sidewalk. When one of the teenagers asked what they had done wrong, he was told: “You were jaywalking; you broke the law.”
But why is jaywalking even against the law? There is no such offence in much of Europe, including in the UK – although Ken Livingstone apparently proposed making jaywalking illegal while he was mayor of London. In the US, however, you can get a hefty fine and even go to jail for it. . . .
Jaywalking laws are not evenly applied: enforcement disproportionally targets people of colour. In 2019, for example, 90% of illegal-walking tickets issued by New York police were to black and Hispanic people.
I've always hated jaywalking laws, and at this point anything we can do to reduce friction between the police and minority Americans seems like a good idea to me. I mean, I don't think the British have any more trouble with people blocking traffic while they amble across the street than we do.