Newly appointed Hillsborough state attorney reverses controversial bike-stop policy

Newly appointed Hillsborough State Attorney Susan Lopez reversed several enforcement policies that were put in place by her predecessor, Andrew Warren. This includes a controversial bike-stop policy opponents accused of being racist.

In a memo sent to her employees this week, Lopez wrote, "effective immediately, any policy my predecessor put in place that called for presumptive non-enforcement of the laws of Florida is immediately rescinded. This includes the bike stop and pedestrian stop policy."

"These are programs that we entered into with the sheriff's office, with Tampa police, with all of local law enforcement," said Warren. "So now they're throwing out policies that have been in place, that have been working that the community wants. That's not democracy. That's not good for Hillsborough County."

In 2016, bike-stop cases in Tampa became known by opponents as "biking while black" and led to a Department of Justice investigation. The DOJ determined nearly 75% of bicyclists stopped by Tampa police were black.

RELATED: Resisting arrest without violence will not be prosecuted for bicycle stops in Tampa, state attorney says

Warren said following that DOJ report, he and the Tampa Police Department discussed how to better handle these cases.

"We worked with them on a policy to figure out that we were making sure we were upholding the law, treating cases consistently and building trust between law enforcement and the community," Warren told FOX 13, adding police began focusing more on warnings and bike safety education.

Lopez, however, believes Warren wasn't consistent with certain laws, which was a reason Governor Ron DeSantis said he removed Warren from office last week. The governor said Warren's removal also stemmed from his pledge not to criminalize minors seeking a sex change operation, which is not a current state law, and Warren's vow not to prosecute women who violate the state's 15-week abortion ban, which is currently being challenged in court.

NAACP-Hillsborough President Yvette Lewis worries the prosecutor's office is taking a step backward by prosecuting bike-stop cases.

"This is a racist policy that was created to perpetuate systemic racism within our community," she said.

PREVIOUS: Andrew Warren likely to be reinstated after Governor DeSantis 'hijacked' job, constitutional lawyer predicts

Lewis added these tickets can cause long-term problems, and they largely impact minorities.

"It was so egregious that it held a lot of people back in the African American community," Lewis said. "Tickets were stacking up upon that person and then, if they tried to get their license, they couldn't get their license."

Lopez, meanwhile, also wrote her office will now enforce "any category of crime...this agency would not prosecute" under Warren, including not seeking mandatory minimum sentences in felony cases.

Warren, however, said that accusation is nonsense.

"The policies that she's referring to aren't policies at all, which is just another piece of evidence that to show that what the governor's been saying is totally divorced from reality," he said.

In a statement, a Tampa Police spokesperson said the department continues to be focused on public safety, including the enforcement of traffic laws. Previously, TPD has said officers were also focused on community safety during bike stops, but the outcome of that enforcement was unfortunate and unintended.

It's unclear if Lopez's policy change will impact how police conduct bike stops in the future. FOX 13 reached out to Lopez for comment but did not hear back.