The award-winning Tampa Bay Times has a story out about a new way to target African-Americans: pass frivolous laws that allow police to stop and ticket residents for minor bicycle infractions:
If the tickets are any indication, Tampa residents must be the lousiest bicyclists in Florida.
They don’t use lights at night. Don’t ride close enough to the curb. Can’t manage to keep their hands on the handlebars.
In the past three years, Tampa police have written 2,504 bike tickets — more than Jacksonville, Miami, St. Petersburg and Orlando combined.
Police say they are gung ho about bike safety and focused on stopping a plague of bike thefts.
But here’s something they don’t mention about the people they ticket:
Eight out of 10 are black.
A Tampa Bay Times investigation has found that Tampa police are targeting poor, black neighborhoods with obscure subsections of a Florida statute that outlaws things most people have tried on a bike, like riding with no light or carrying a friend on the handlebars.
Officers use these minor violations as an excuse to stop, question and search almost anyone on wheels. The department doesn’t just condone these stops, it encourages them, pushing officers who patrol high-crime neighborhoods to do as many as possible.
There was the 56-year-old man who rode his bike through a stop sign while pulling a lawnmower. Police handcuffed him while verifying he had, indeed, borrowed the mower from a friend.
There was the 54-year-old man whose bike was confiscated because he couldn’t produce a receipt to prove it was his.
One woman was walking her bike home after cooking for an elderly neighbor. She said she was balancing a plate of fish and grits in one hand when an officer flagged her down and issued her a $51 ticket for not having a light. With late fees, it has since ballooned to $90. She doesn’t have the money to pay.
The Times analyzed more than 10,000 bicycle tickets Tampa police issued in the past dozen years. The newspaper found that even though blacks make up about a quarter of the city’s population, they received 79 percent of the bike tick
Ninety dollars is a lot of money for a low income person.
If police were targeting my community like this, I’d be pretty angry, too.
Via: How riding your bike can land you in trouble with the cops — if you’re black (Tampa Bay Times)