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Justice Dept. review of Tampa Police Dept. to be released Tuesday

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

A long awaited report from the Justice Department regarding the Tampa Police Dept.’s bicycle stops and citations policies will be released to the public on Tuesday.

A press conference has been scheduled for Tuesday morning at the offices of the U.S. Attorney’s office of the Middle District of Florida in Tampa. Scheduled to appear will be U.S. Attorney Lee Bentley III, Ronald Davis from the Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Tampa Police Department Chief Eric Ward.

Buckhorn and former Police Chief Jane Castor reached out to the COPS program last year in the wake of the Tampa Bay Times “biking while black” expose,  which was published almost exactly a year ago.

The story revealed that the TPD has written more bike citations in the previous three years (2,504 to be precise) than the police departments of Miami, St. Petersburg, Jacksonville and Orlando combined.

But the explosive part of the story was how nearly eight out of 10 of those cited by the police were black.

The story had an immediate impact, leading to a series of local community forums as well as a months long public campaign to have the city create a citizens review board to monitor the police. Until it was created late last year, Tampa stood out as one of the biggest cities in America that did not have such a review board in place.

The Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services came to Tampa last July to hear from the community, but that didn’t appease some of the TPD critics, who said they preferred that the U.S. Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, and not the COPS program, to review the TPD. That’s because the Civil Rights Division has more authority to make changes to the department.

After the Times story broke last spring, the Tampa Police Department reported that they were citing fewer bicycle citations.

Officials with the COPS program announced last summer that the report would be completed by the end of the year, which didn’t happen.

Frustrated by the delay, the Tampa City Council issued out a letter earlier this month to the DOJ, inquiring when the report would be complete.

 

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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