TAMPA, Fla. (WTSP) – The Department of Justice on Tuesday released its findings from an investigation that probed the Tampa Police Department’s bike ticketing practices, and whether or not the department discriminates against its African American residents.
According to federal officials, unjustified racial disparities were found. The DOJ now recommends that Tampa police be more diligent in documenting the reasons for bike stops and the ethnicity of those involved. Officials also suggest greater community engagement to explain why policies are being pursued in particular communities.
The investigation was sparked by a Tampa Bay Times investigation that showed nearly eight out of 10 bike citations written were given to black riders, numbers that are not proportionate to that group’s population in the city.
The investigation also revealed that tickets were concentrated in poor, majority black neighborhoods and that bicycle infractions were often used as a guise to check riders for other types of criminal activity.
Read the entire investigation here.
Mayor Bob Buckhorn said the city welcomes the recommendations and will implement changes accordingly. However, he insists there was no racial profiling or discriminatory practices that took place, and that many residents of high crime areas welcomed the police presence that has helped to reduce crime.
The DOJ report released today will be shared with more than 17,000 police and sheriff's departments across the country as a tool, as DOJ officials said racial disparities in policing are not unique to Tampa.