Newly appointed State Attorney Susan Lopez has decided to reverse a policy that disproportionately targets Black cyclists as one of her first moves in the position, according to Fox 13 News. The bike stop and pedestrian stop policy, dubbed the “Biking While Black” policy previously led to an investigation by the Justice Department.
Gov. Ron DeSantis previously fired Hillsborough County state attorney Andrew Warren, per the report. Why? Because Warren challenged many of the governor’s anti-LGBT laws and supported LGBT youth seeking gender affirming medical care. DeSantis replaced Warren with Susan Lopez who immediately sent out a memo reversing all of the policies her predecessor put in place. One of those included a bike-stop policy long accused of being racist.
“It was so egregious that it held a lot of people back in the African American community. Tickets were stacking up upon that person and then, if they tried to get their license, they couldn’t get their license,” said NAACP-Hillsborough President Yvette Lewis to Fox 13 News.
Read more on the history of the Biking While Black policy from Florida Politics:
In January, Warren told law enforcement via a memo that his office would not prosecute bicyclists and pedestrians whose only charges are that they resisted an officer without violence.
The decision came after Warren’s office had found that more than 70% of “resisting without violence” cases in Hillsborough that occurred after a pedestrian or bike stop involved Black defendants. Warren also held meetings to discuss his findings with TPD before implementing the policy.
His decision followed years of controversy surrounding the Tampa Police Department’s bicycle stop policies, which came to be known as “Biking While Black” after a 2015 Tampa Bay Times investigation found that TPD overwhelmingly targeted Black bicyclists for tickets.
A Federal U.S. Department of Justice investigation, which was called for by then-Mayor Bob Buckhorn, also found that “Biking while Black” didn’t do anything to reduce crime and “burdened” Black bicyclists.
Soon after, bicycle tickets declined in Tampa.
Warren said everyone should be outraged by the governor’s decision and Lopez’s actions, per an email to Florida Politics. “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,” he said via Fox 13 News.
We’ve seen the strategy of filling prisons with Black bodies take place in a variety of ways, whether it be walking while Black or riding a bike while Black.
Lopez’s first plan of action being the reversal of a racist bike-stop policy speaks volumes given the research exposing how Black Hillsborough residents were affected by it. It’s clear that her agenda is the feed in to the systemic racism in the criminal justice system.