By Marisa Taylor
Police in Tampa, Florida are disproportionately targeting bicyclists in black neighborhoods where officers allegedly issue an excessive number of bicycle tickets for mostly minor infractions, according to an investigation by the Tampa Bay Times. The police have countered the accusations, saying they are trying to look out for riders’ safety and help curb crime, the newspaper said.
The Times reported on Friday that in its analysis of more than 10,000 bicycle tickets issued by Tampa police during the last dozen years, 79 percent were given to black cyclists, even though black people only make up about a quarter of Tampa’s population.
The newspaper said the police are targeting residents of predominantly black neighborhoods and using “obscure subsections of a Florida statute,” issuing a large number of tickets for minor, run-of-the-mill bicycle infractions — failing to use lights when riding at night, riding without hands placed on handlebars or carrying a friend on handlebars.
“Officers use these minor violations as an excuse to stop, question and search almost anyone on wheels,” the investigation report reads. “The department doesn’t just condone these stops, it encourages them, pushing officers who patrol high-crime neighborhoods to do as many as possible.”