By Jim Bleyer
Attorneys knowledgeable with civil rights law assert that Jane Castor’s admission of racial profiling under her regime as Tampa’s police chief opens up the city to a bevy of lawsuits.
Damages could run into the millions if every victim of Castor’s “biking while black” targeting comes forward and becomes a party to legal action.
Castor has filed to run for mayor of Tampa, the city she brought national shame to beginning four years ago with her racial profiling program. In April, 2016, a US Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services investigation concluded the Tampa Police Department program unduly burdened the black community without any law enforcement benefit.
Attorneys Luke Lirot and Michael Maddux declared there is a basis for legal action during an interview with activist Michelle Williams.
Lirot said Castor’s policy, which she labeled “pro-active policing,” is fundamentally flawed as it constitutes an abandonment of probable cause. Noting that blacks constituted 79 percent of the biking arrests but only 25 percent of city residents, Lirot declared the disparity “ridiculous” and indefensible.
Maddux termed arrests of blacks on the basis of loud noise an “obvious ruse,” adding that it would be possible to settle lawsuits before they work their way into the courtroom.
For her part, Williams said the black community “will not rest” with Castor’s politically-timed admission of racism. She foresaw a vigorous mobilization to vote in the city elections next March.
“We’re not going to put Castor in charge of the city and the same department where she wreaked damage to the community,” she said. “It’s not going to happen.”
Williams invited Castor to discuss her tenure as police chief but there was no response.
Lirot and Maddux aren’t the only ones who believe Castor has opened the litigation floodgates. In Florida You Judge, a Pinellas County-based blog popular with the Florida legal community, a June 1 column suggests that Castor’s racist policies and subsequent admission are more than sufficient grounds for lawsuits.
Florida You Judge wrote in an open letter to Castor: “On April 12, 2018, a week before you announced you were running for Mayor of Tampa and 3 years after assertions that your agency was burdening blacks without any public safety benefit, you told TBT that your bike program was wrong.
“Since your recent acknowledgement that in fact your bike program was wrong, is it now your position that those black persons, who were burdened and had their civil rights violated, should now seek potential legal claims against the city of Tampa?.”
Like Williams, Florida You Judge invited Castor to respond but again, a candidate who aspires to lead Tampa remains mum.
Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who supported the Tampa Police Department’s racist policies which made national headlines, was also invited to respond. Crickets from the guy who wallows in ribbon-cutting photo ops.