Tampa, Florida -- The Department of Justice is launching a probe into traffic citations issued by Tampa police.
Chief Jane Castor and the city requested the DOJ to get involved after a Tampa Bay Times investigation revealed that 79 percent of people cited for bicycle violations were black.
Castor says there are reasons why her officers have cited more black bicyclists. She says there are more patrols in high-crime areas that are also predominately black. "Ask the citizens of Sulphur Springs, East Tampa, Robles Park if their quality of life has improved," said Castor.
BICYCLE RULES:What police are looking for
10 News did ask residents in Sulphur Springs. "This is my form of transportation. You got to get around," said Mario Peyton. "I got my light right here, my front light and back light. I use my turn signals. You know, they just harass. It's harassment."
Residents say they know if they're on a bicycle and there's something wrong then they will be stopped, ticketed and that means fined. "You don't stop at the stop sign. You don't turn the corner the right way, they're going to pull you over. I ain't ever got stopped," said Arthur Johnson. He said officers are helping the community and they stop bicyclists who are breaking the law.
Peyton disagrees. He says he's been stopped because he's black. "Straight racial profiling. I won't call them racist, but they're racial profiling," said Peyton.
Castor says that is not true and takes issue with the times report. "I think that article tried to imply that the Tampa Police Department was in some way racist," said Castor. In a media conference on Wednesday, she admitted there's a disparity and says that's why the Justice Department is involved.
The ACLU has called on the police to stop ticketing until the investigation is complete.