The City of Tampa is asking for more detailed information from its police department about who’s getting pulled over, and in some cases, ticketed, while riding their bicycles.
Specifically, council members want to know whether African-Americans are being unfairly targeted.
Three years ago, the city faced an investigation from the Department of Justice over the same issue, and questions came up during Thursday’s council meeting about whether improvements are continuing.
Kendrick Eason says he doesn’t think so.
Eason has been riding his bike around an East Tampa neighborhood for “about three months,” he said. “And over that time period, I’ve been pulled over at least four times.”
Eason says Tampa’s so-called “biking while black” issue is still happening, despite assurances from Police Chief Brian Dugan.
Dugan delivered an annual report to the city council on pull-over statistics Thursday morning.
“We are continuing to stop people, I want to be completely transparent,” he said, “But we are being much more judicious in the number of citations.”
The chief got an earful, however, from Council Chair Frank Reddick, who asked why the department’s bicycle stop numbers had not been broken down by race and region.
And how - without that info - could they really know whether things were improving.
“The previous report that came out was that most of them were done in the black community,” said Reddick, “Particularly in East Tampa. And we wanted to know if that was a continuing trend.”
Daisha Riggins lives in East Tampa, rides a bike, and doesn’t think it’s gotten better at all.
“They still pull you over every chance they get. They still, when it gets to be night time, they still pull you over. Other than that - nothing is changed,” said Riggins.
Chief Dugan says he simply provided the same stats as his predecessor, Chief Eric Ward. And because so few citations were now being written – Dugan says he didn’t think the demographic breakdown of info was relevant.
“I didn’t do that,” said Dugan. “When I saw the numbers were less than a hundred I was pretty comfortable with it.”
Critics say Reddick was also playing politics. It’s no secret, he’s endorsed Tampa businessman David Straz for mayor. But Straz is trailing former TPD Chief Jane Castor.
Castor was leading the police department in 2015 when the “biking while black” controversy erupted.
The timing - bringing it up again now, Reddick claims, is coincidental.
“I would’ve stated what I said whether it was a political season or not,” said Reddick, “Because, I truly believe that the former police chief was the black community an apology.”
Reddick also insists that former police chief Ward did provide the city council with more detailed demographic information about who was getting pulled over on their bicycles around the city of Tampa.
They’ve asked the department to provide a similar statistical breakdown in the next few weeks.
Reddick says he continues to be concerned that the bike stops are being used as probable cause to search and question people.
Chief Dugan says his officers made close to 3,700 bicycle stops in the previous year. Of those, about 650 people got warnings. Only 97 actually received a violation.
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