Fla. Cops Accused of Using Bike Registration Law to Profile, Harass Blacks

"Biking while black" in Ft. Lauderdale


On a sunny morning in 2011, Ellsworth Knowles Jr. was pedaling his bike through Fort Lauderdale, steering for the Midway Food Market at NW 11th and NW 1st Street. Before the outspoken African-American commercial painter hit his destination, plainclothes cops in an unmarked car rolled up, he says. They wanted to know if he had proper registration for his bike.

By then, Knowles, then 43, knew the routine. He says that he and others in his neighborhood had been stopped before. Under a Fort Lauderdale ordinance, city residents are required to register their bikes with the city. The police can impound bikes that are in violation. But according to Knowles - and now the Broward Public Defender -- cops regularly use a registration check as an excuse to detain people they deem suspicious - especially black people.

"This law was passed and designed for no other purpose than to stop black people," Broward County Public Defender Howard Finkelstein tells New Times. "It's pretty clear that it's racial profiling."

(Hat tip to Radley Balko)