— Ron Brackett (@rontimes) April 17, 2015
For the past decade, Tampa police have enforced a “stop and frisk”-style policy that aggressively and disproportionately targets the city’s poor, black residents who ride bicycles, according to a Tampa Bay Times investigation.
Cyclists can be stopped and ticketed for having a missing tail light, baggy clothing, pedaling through a high-crime neighborhood or not having their hands on the handlebars, which is no longer illegal, according to the Tampa newspaper.
“It’s always the light, or to run your VIN number,” 31-year-old Anthony Gilbert told the Times. “‘Let’s have your ID. Just stand in front of my cruiser.’ Now you’re being humiliated. Your friend’s riding by. Your reverend might be riding by. Now, you’ve got to go to church. The pastor’s going to be like, ‘What happened, son?’ ”
Of the 10,000 bicycle tickets issued by Tampa police in the past dozen years, the newspaper found that black cyclists received 79 percent of those citations, despite making up less than a quarter of the city’s population.
In the past three years alone, the Times reported, police have issued 2,504 bike tickets, which is more than Jacksonville, Miami, St. Petersburg and Orlando combined.
Police have stopped some riders more than a dozen times, the newspaper reported, and, at least one individual has been ticketed three times in a single day.
“If it’s not racial profiling, what is it?” Joyce Hamilton Henry, director of advocacy for ACLU of Florida, told the Times.
Critics might call it “biking while black,” but police, the paper reported, have another name for it: proactive policing.
“Instead of waiting to respond to 911 calls, officers now look for ways to initiate contact with potential lawbreakers and head off crime before it happens,” the Times wrote.
“This is not a coincidence,” said Police Chief Jane Castor told the Times. “Many individuals receiving bike citations are involved in criminal activity.”
[This post has been updated and shortened.]