The “driving while black” phenomenon is sadly familiar by now, and there’s even federal data to back up the concept: Black drivers are 31 percent more likely to be pulled over than white drivers, and 23 percent more likely than Hispanic drivers. There’s research to show that black folks on foot are disproportionately targeted by law enforcement too—stop-and-frisk policies in cities such as New York and Chicago demonstrate the trend. Now, a new study in Florida shows that even behind the handlebars of their bikes, black people are more frequently singled out and stopped by police.
The investigation by the Tampa Bay Times found that eight out of 10 citations for bicycle-related offenses—such as riding too close to the curb or not using a light when riding after dark—are handed out to black Floridians. The alarming numbers show police are using subsections of a state law to justify cracking down on minor bike violations in poor, predominantly black neighborhoods in Tampa. Children as young as 11 have received fines that have later been reported to collection agencies, the investigation found.
Though blacks make up roughly just a quarter of the city’s population, an analysis of more than 10,000 bicycle tickets given over 12 years found that they received 79 percent of citations. The bicycle stops that result in arrests are most often for small drug-possession charges or misdemeanor charges related to interactions during the stops themselves.
Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor told the Tampa Bay Times that this is no coincidence, and that it is part of a strategic attempt to crack down on crime. Auto-theft prevention has been so effective, she claimed, that bicycles have “become the most common mode of transportation for criminals.”
Civil liberties advocates told the paper that the disproportionate stops are clearly a form of racial profiling. The findings also concerned Circuit Judge Tracy Sheehan. “Certainly, we have laws, and we should all follow the law,” Sheehan told the paper. “But it occurred to me the stops were all occurring in certain neighborhoods and with certain children, and not in my neighborhood, and not with the white kids.”
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Original article from TakePart