Tampa City Council tells TPD to produce detailed bicyclist stops report

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Since last August, Tampa police officers stopped about 3,700 people riding bicycles across the city, handing out 650 warnings and ticketing 97 bike riders.

The numbers were presented to Tampa City Council by Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan, but council members were not satisfied with the topline report.

"There's a variety of reasons people are stopped, they could be a suspect in a crime, different things like that,” Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan told city council. “But I’m pretty comfortable that our officers are using discretion and are not just writing tickets like we used to be."

"Pretty comfortable" was not what council members were looking for. They immediately asked for more details, saying the bar-chart report with month-by-month warning and citation numbers wasn't enough.

"It should be broke down by the race, it should be broke down by the area of the city, it should be broke down by what that procedure is, because your report means nothing to us, because in its totality, it doesn't give us the specifics," said Councilman Mike Suarez.

City council says it wants to make sure TPD is following recommendations put forth by the federal Department of Justice after a 2015 investigation into the department's practices in pulling over bicyclists.

In 2015, TPD rolled out a program targeting bicyclists, saying it would reduce crime.

When it was implemented, however, many said it was a way for officers to racially profile.

A DOJ investigation into the program found the stops were not motivated by race, but also didn't reduce crime as police hoped.

The DOJ recommended cutting down on bike stops and keeping better track of who's pulled over and why.

"One of the ways we monitor whether or not things are remaining the way that we thought they were supposed to be, is by asking the police chief to come in every six months and give us a report,” Councilman Harry Cohen said. “And I think that today, what was concerning, was just that we didn't have enough information to put the report in context, you have to be able to determine why the stops are being done."

Dugan could not give the council a detailed breakdown of the data. However, he told  FOX 13 News the department has gotten better, saying officers regularly meet with the community, review each and every stop to make sure it's justified, and dramatically cut down on the number of riders ticketed.

"I am confident that we are seeing anyone who is potentially doing a crime, no matter what their race, what their background is, if we think they're doing a crime, I’m confident we're stopping and talking to everyone who meets that criteria," Dugan said.

Compared to 2015 data - the year the program was implemented - there were nearly 1,000 fewer bike stops in 2018, and officers handed out about 65 fewer tickets.          

Dugan is set to be back in front of council October 18 with a new report containing more specific information.