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Tampa police arrest more blacks than any other race, new data shows

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Tampa police arrest more black men and women than any other racial group, according to new numbers obtained by WTSP-TV.

This statistical disparity comes ahead of an upcoming U.S. Justice Department review of the Tampa Police Department procedures on vehicle and bicycle code enforcement.

While recent Census estimates show 26 percent of Tampa’s population are African American, black men and women made up 54 percent of all TPD arrests in 2013.

WTSP reporter Noah Pransky notes that those racial demographics outpace any other law enforcement agency, either medium or large, in the Tampa Bay area.

TPD officials say its zero-tolerance approach is responsible for the steady drop in crime rates over the past decade. In 2013, the agency reported 3,108 crimes per 100,000 residents, compared to 11,150 in 2002.

“If you commit a crime (in Tampa), no matter what your color is, you’re likely going to jail,” said TPD Captain Ronald McMullen to 10 Investigates. “Arrests are high, but the crime rate’s low. So this is an extremely safe place to live.”

But for its relatively moderate size, the TPD arrested more people in 2013 than any other Florida law enforcement agency. Even at double the size of the TPD, Pransky says the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office made 29 percent fewer arrests.

As for African-American residents, Tampa police made 241 arrests per 1,000 individuals in 2013, versus 85 arrests for every 1,000 white residents. That is nearly 2.5 times that of the St. Petersburg Police, the next-highest agency in Tampa Bay.

McMullen, an African-American and 26-year TPD veteran, counters that the high rate is because most of the area’s crimes are committed by African Americans, and often against other blacks.

“It’s a sad state of affairs, but 57 percent of our victims are black,” McMullen told Pransky. “The black-on-black crime (is) the issue in my mind that we need to…focus on.”

That explanation does not sit well with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which requested the DOJ review of the TPD bicycle and vehicle code enforcement program. After seeing the arrest figures, former ACLU of Florida President Mike Pheneger told WTSP he would consider a request for the DOJ to expand the review to all arrests.

“I was quite stunned…it’s extraordinary that (the arrest rates) are that high,” Pheneger said, before suggesting that the TPD focus on high-crime areas make racial profiling a self-fulfilling prophecy. “When you look in minority communities, you’ll find minorities committing crimes.

A TPD spokesperson told 10 Investigates in a statement that the DOJ review includes only bicycle and auto citations; there are no plans to expanding the analysis to all arrests.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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