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Thursday, Nov 15, 2018
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Tampa chief wants council to see larger context in ticketing of black bicyclists

TAMPA — Police Chief Brian Dugan will deliver a breakdown of bicyclists stopped and ticketed by police at today’s City Council meeting, and the data will confirm what some council members already suspect: Black bicyclists are disproportionately stopped and cited for violations like riding at night without a light.

But Dugan plans to counter the findings with statistics showing other citation trends that are racially and geographically disproportionate: White motorists are more likely to be ticketed on Bayshore Boulevard than are black motorists on North 40th Street.

He’ll also likely point to data showing 75 percent of drunk driving arrests this year were white men.

Council members asked for a demographic breakdown of bicycle tickets last month in a contentious meeting tinged by mayoral politics.

PREVIOUS: Police update sparks new concerns over ticketing black bicyclists

Former police chief Jane Castor is running for mayor and her policy of targeting bicyclists in high-crime areas, often predominantly African-American neighborhoods, convulsed Florida’s third-largest city after it was revealed in a 2015 Tampa Bay Times investigation.

Two council members, Mike Suarez and Harry Cohen, also are running for mayor. Two others, Chairman Frank Reddick and Yolie Capin, are supporters of philanthropist David Straz Jr., who also is in the race to replace term-limited Mayor Bob Buckhorn. The election is March 5.

Reddick has been a vocal critic of the bicycle ticketing policy and spearheaded the effort to create the Citizens Review Board to review police conduct.

PREVIOUS: How riding your bike can land you in trouble with the cops, if you’re black

Overall, Dugan will present numbers showing that citations for bike offenses are down significantly, from 72 in 2017 to 33 through the end of September. The Times investigation concluded that over a three-year period, Tampa police cited more bicyclists than Miami, Jacksonville, Orlando and St. Petersburg combined.

Council members will likely want to know why 24 of the 33 tickets written for bicycle offenses so far this year were given to black men, mostly in east Tampa — and why, to date, black men account for 1,527 of the 2,294 bicycle stops that ended in warnings.

A Police Department analysis shows that most of the stops occurred in areas of the city where the most violent, serious crimes occur. Dugan is expected to argue that these numbers should be compared to other crimes in which whites make up the overwhelming majority of arrests. Last year, more than 75 percent of those arrested for driving drunk were white men. Similarly, police data shows white drivers are considerably more likely to receive tickets for speeding on Bayshore in a largely white area than black drivers are along more diverse 40th Street.

In 2018, white drivers received 800 tickets on Bayshore compared to 628 warnings. On 40th Street, black drivers this year have been ticketed 212 times while escaping with a warning 470 times, according to police statistics.

In May, a mother and young daughter were killed attempting to cross Bayshore on the same day that a woman was fatally struck by a car on 40th Street. Afterward, police boosted enforcement of the speed limit on both streets.

In defense of their argument that ticketing of black bicyclists isn’t racially motivated, police note that speeding and drunk driving are crimes more commonly committed in predominantly white neighborhoods like South Howard and Bayshore.

The City Council meeting begins at 9 a.m. in council chambers on the third floor of City Hall, 315 E. Kennedy Blvd. The meeting will be televised on channel 15 on Frontier and channel 640 on Charter Spectrum.

Contact Charlie Frago at cfrago@tampabay.com or (727)893-8459. Follow@CharlieFrago

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