Tuesday, September 25, 2018
  • Bay Buzz
  • From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Police update sparks new concerns on Tampa council over ticketing black bicyclists

TAMPA — A divisive policing strategy that targeted bicycle riders who are black drew fire again at the Tampa City Council meeting Thursday and the city's upcoming mayoral election provided some of the fuel.

The Tampa Police Department said the practice has been discontinued since it was publicly revealed by the Tampa Bay Times in 2015, but police have been required since then to submit an annual report to the City Council on practices regarding the ticketing of bicyclists.

Police Chief Brian Dugan was delivering that report at Thursday's meeting when Chairman Frank Reddick asked Dugan whether he had a geographic or racial breakdown for the stops.

Dugan said he didn't.

Reddick called that unacceptable, saying police had abused their power by targeting black people and he wanted to make sure it isn't still happening.

Reddick, who is black, helped lead the call for policing reforms in the wake of the newspaper's report.

"I just merely brought the same (type of) report that Chief Ward brought for two straight years," Dugan replied, referring to former police chief Eric Ward. Ward retired in July 2017.

During the past year, Dugan told council members, police issued 650 warnings and 97 citations for bike violations such as failure to display a headlight. The numbers are about the same as the year before, he said.

The discussion veered into mayoral politics.

Reddick is a supporter of David Straz, one in a crowded field of candidates seeking to replace term-limited Mayor Bob Buckhorn in a March 5 election.
Another candidate is Jane Castor, chief of police when the so-called "biking while black" controversy broke. Castor told the Times earlier this year that the policy had been a mistake.

That wasn't enough, Reddick said.

Castor, the front runner in recent polling on the mayor's race. never apologized to Tampa's black community, he said.

"That's a disgrace. And this person wants to be mayor?"

In a statement to the Times later Thursday, Castor said that though it was "well-intentioned," the strategy's results were "completely unacceptable."

She said she was "incredibly distressed both professionally and personally" when she realized the bike tickets were increasing tension in the city's black community. She said she had learned from her mistake.

In 2015, Chief Castor told the Times that police deliberately targeted cyclists in certain high-crime neighborhoods to curb crime, hoping to catch individuals with a stolen bike or drugs or to scare thieves away.

"This is not a coincidence," she said then. "Many individuals receiving bike citations are involved in criminal activity."

Two City Council members, Harry Cohen and Mike Suarez, also are running for mayor and weighed in on the ticketing practice at Thursday's meeting.

Cohen asked Dugan to provide data reaching back to 2013 so that council members could better evaluate whether things had improved. Suarez said that without knowing the racial and geographic breakdown of the stops, the police report "means nothing."

Council members voted unanimously to have Dugan return Oct. 18 with a report including race of the offender, reason for the stop and where it occurred.

Dugan said his department has improved from scrutiny of the ticketing practice, including a U.S. Department of Justice report. He said his officers only stop bike riders for legal reasons — those who fit the description of a suspect, for example.

Comments
It took awhile, but Tampa City Council approves Buckhorn’s last budget

It took awhile, but Tampa City Council approves Buckhorn’s last budget

It took 5 ½  hours, punctuated by 90 minutes of breaks to work out the fiscal math, but the Tampa City Council approved a  more than $1 billion budget Monday after striking a deal that allows city employees to keep their current health...
Updated: 2 hours ago
‘Strippers, Cigars and Gasparilla’: Topher Morrison wants to rebrand Tampa

‘Strippers, Cigars and Gasparilla’: Topher Morrison wants to rebrand Tampa

No one can accuse Topher Morrison of not having ideas.The branding consultant turned political candidate has lots of them. Make Tampa known for its rooftop scene? Yes, and: hold a contest to see who can build an elevator that wraps around a building ...
Published: 09/21/18
Updated: 09/22/18
Hillsborough commission candidates still dancing on sales tax for transportation

Hillsborough commission candidates still dancing on sales tax for transportation

In a Seminole Heights forum last week, only one of four county commission candidates, Kimberly Overman, responded directly to a question about whether they back a proposal for a one-cent sales tax increase for transportation improvements – she'...
Published: 09/21/18
Pinellas commission candidate Amy Kedron loses support from council member and commissioner

Pinellas commission candidate Amy Kedron loses support from council member and commissioner

Pinellas County Commission candidate Amy Kedron has lost a key endorsement from one of the few elected officials who publicly supported her campaign.St. Petersburg City Council member Gina Driscoll said she pulled her endorsement after Kedron told th...
Published: 09/20/18
Updated: 09/21/18
Capin on Buckhorn and Ulele: ‘If it was his bust, he’d light it up.’

Capin on Buckhorn and Ulele: ‘If it was his bust, he’d light it up.’

Tampa City Council member Yvonne Yolie Capin blasted Mayor Bob Buckhorn for his administration's decision to remove a bronze bust of Ulele, a mythical Indian princess, from the city's Riverwalk this week.Capin, who has clashed with the mayor over the...
Published: 09/20/18
Tampa City Council approves liquour and rezoning for Stovall House making it private club

Tampa City Council approves liquour and rezoning for Stovall House making it private club

It took nearly 13 hours over three weeks, but developer Blake Casper won City Council approval to convert the historic Stovall House on Bayshore Boulevard to a private club.On Thursday, council members listened to nearly six hours of testimony on the...
Published: 09/20/18
Buckhorn says Tampa City Council playing politics with budget

Buckhorn says Tampa City Council playing politics with budget

Mayor Bob Buckhorn's hot take from watching Monday's City Council budget hearing?"I think, unfortunately, reality met election year politics," said the mayor on Tuesday.The City Council voted unanimously to delay final approval of the city's more tha...
Published: 09/18/18
Updated: 09/19/18
DeSantis’s school visit is “not a campaign stop,” Hillsborough district says

DeSantis’s school visit is “not a campaign stop,” Hillsborough district says

Social media this morning was abuzz with questions about gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis's planned 2 p.m. visit to Franklin Boys Preparatory Academy, a public middle school in Hillsborough County.Educators are asking: Wouldn't this be a violatio...
Published: 09/18/18
Bronze bust of Princess Ulele hauled away before dawn from Tampa Riverwalk

Bronze bust of Princess Ulele hauled away before dawn from Tampa Riverwalk

TAMPA — With only a moving crew as witnesses, an 1,800 pound bronze bust of Native American Princess Ulele was hoisted up and hauled away before dawn Tuesday under orders from the city of Tampa.The sculpture was installed in December on ci...
Published: 09/18/18
Tampa City Council rejects Buckhorn budget over health care costs

Tampa City Council rejects Buckhorn budget over health care costs

TAMPA — The city's $1 billion-plus city budget was put on hold Monday evening by a City Council determined to strike a better deal for Tampa employees on health care costs.After a sometimes tense 2 ½ hour hearing, the City Council delayed ...
Published: 09/17/18
Updated: 09/18/18