It was nearly a year ago when the Tampa Bay Times reported on the Tampa Police Department’s policies of targeting poor, black neighborhoods for bicycle violations.
It caused a sensation in the progressive parts of the city, and ultimately led Mayor Bob Buckhorn and then Police Chief Jane Castor to contact the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS Office) of the Department of Justice to perform an independent review of the TPD’s bike enforcement policy.
That report was supposedly due at the end of 2015, but to date has yet to be completed, prompting City Councilwoman Lisa Montelione on Thursday to call for the council to contact the DOJ and find out about the delay.
“Has there been any indication from them on when they might be delivering that report?” Montelione asked Police Chief Eric Ward.
Ward said that the COPS office requested additional information from the TPD toward the end of last year, and that to his knowledge they’re now working on a second draft of the report. “When that’s done, that information will be made available to me,” he said.
“At some point, somebody has to do a little pushing to get this report done,” said Montelione. “We’ve heard today from the citizens that this continues to be an open wound, so to speak, and we need to put this to rest.”
When done, she said, the city can move on and get some “closure” regarding the policy.
In the months following the Times report, the TPD reported that the number of bike stops and written citations had slowed significantly.
After discussions with city council attorney Marty Shelby regarding the appropriateness of the council submitting a letter (versus the mayor), City Attorney Julia Mandell said there isn’t a problem if the council opts to do so, but that it shouldn’t be a surprise that the DOJ is still working on the report.
“Just keep in mind that federal government moves the way the federal government moves,” Mandell said.
The Council then voted unanimously to contact the DOJ to inquire about when the report might be accomplished.