TAMPA, Fla. — A new report from the Tampa Police Department shows officers are pulling over bicyclists for three big reasons: One, not having a bike light, two, running a stop sign and three, being on the wrong side of the road.
Chief Brian Dugan strongly defended these reasons in front of Tampa City Council on Thursday.
"Odd and ends jobs and I have to use this bike. I go to the grocery store and I have to use this bike,” said 67-year-old Learnis Eddie.
His bicycle is his only way of getting around East Tampa.
"I've been stopped a couple of times and the officer said I didn't have the proper headlights,” said Eddie.
But the $150 ticket he got from a Tampa Police Officer cost him more than his ride.
"That's a lot of money. I don't got that kind of money. I'm on a fixed income,” he said.
Bicycle citations or tickets are significantly down in Tampa according to the new report — 33 to date this year, compared to 72 tickets for all of last year.
Still, the same report shows the majority ticketed are African American males. To date in 2018, officers have stopped 2,642 bicyclists and 1,902 were African American. In 2017, 3174 bicyclists were stopped and 2,298 were African Americans.
"I want to know are you targeting the black community because those numbers, I mean, outstanding in every category?” City Council Member Frank Reddick asked Chief Dugan.
The Chief says he encourages officers to give free warnings instead of tickets and defended against the racial profiling allegation adding numbers do not tell the whole story.
"I also wanted to point out some of the disparities when you point out, you know, the DUI arrests in the City of Tampa-- 75 percent are white people. A large number (of DUI arrests) in South Tampa are white people,” said Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan.
A 2015 Department of Justice investigation scrutinized the police tactic as divisive but stopped short of calling it racially motivated.
Chief Dugan also acknowledged months away from a Mayoral election, he believes political undercurrents are at play.
"When you have a former Chief of Police who's running for Mayor and you have two council members that are running for Mayor and you have to council members helping someone run for Mayor, you can imagine my position standing there this morning,” said the Chief.
To read the report Dugan presented on Thursday, October 18, click here.