By Jim Bleyer
Jane Castor wears the title of Tampa mayor but a more accurate representation to the city’s majority of African Americans would be Racist-in-Chief.
Her actions as Tampa’s police chief from 2009-2015 undermined race relations and her inaction to repair them as mayor during her turbulent 14-month tenure lend validity to that perception.
Castor targeted people of color by profiling them in an infamous “biking while black” campaign. The flood of citations drew the ire of the U. S. Department of Justice which ordered the city to cease the practice.
Eighty percent of all bicycle related citations, ranging from riding the bike with hands removed from handlebars, wearing saggy clothing and/or bike light issues, were remitted to black residents, despite the fact that black residents encompass 26 percent of the City’s entire population.
She defended the policy: “Many individuals receiving bike citations are involved in criminal activity” and that bikes were “the most common mode of transportation for criminals.” An incomprehensible rationale for targeting people of color.
Castor has exacerbated race relations during the recent street protests where chemical warfare and rubber bullets are pro forma. She stands by current Police Chief Bryan Dugan whose leadership is merely a continuation of Castor’s culture of inequity. Protestors want Dugan fired.
The Restorative Justice Coalition is demanding that Castor answer for the 2014 death of Arthur Green Jr., a 63-year-old black elder who had a diabetic emergency. Tampa Police Department responded by placing him in a similar position as George Floyd, which led to his death. TPD claimed his death was caused by the diabetic emergency, but independent review of his death said otherwise. Castor defended her police department six years ago and continues to remain silent, while the case goes before litigation.
”Yet, she’s out here saying Black Lives Matter and doing Black Out Tuesday,” declares the Coalition on its Facebook page. “It’s fraud.“
At a 2018 Tampa City Council meeting, residents accused Dugan of continuing the malicious targeting practice. He not only did not deny it but said it was scaled down and necessary.
“We are continuing to stop people, I want to be completely transparent,” he said, “But we are being much more judicious in the number of citations.”
But Dugan’s departure, if it ever occurs, is not the only change on the protestors’ to-do list.
”We are seriously discussing the circulating of petitions to recall Castor,” asserted a prominent black activist that requested anonymity. “The defunding of the police department—a reallocation of resources to buttress social services and housing—is the centerpiece of our effort.
”So far, Castor has been tone deaf.”
Community activist and organizer Chris Cano makes powerful statements as he candidly assesses Castor’s leadership failure.
“Racial profiling, violation of civil rights, and direct violence are all behaviors and policies that Jane Castor failed to address as Chief of Police,” said Cano.
“Now as if relations between the community and Tampa Police could not be more fragile, Chief Brian Dugan and Mayor Jane Castor have launched direct attacks on protestors.” Cano, executive director of Suncoast NORML, continued. “Utilizing tear gas and pepper spray against demonstrators, arresting journalists, and condoning police corruption are all crimes that in any other place would be considered war crimes and crimes against humanity. The recent calls for Chief Dugan to resign were met by the Mayor with a clear statement of solidarity.”
Cano explained that Castor’s intransigence is not surprising as during her tenure as chief of police and mayor, she has “condoned corruption and allowed it to flourish.“
Most telling: At a Hillsborough County Democratic LGBTA Caucus meeting, Cano asked then-Chief Castor what her plans were to clean up the Tampa Police Department and remove corrupt officers from the streets. The stunning reply: “I have no bad cops.”
Also as police chief, Castor defended her cops murdering an alleged cannibis-dealing suspect in his home. You can read about it here.
But Castor is a protegé of former Mayor Bob Buckhorn who earned Tampa tons of negative national headlines. Buckhorn’s eight years as mayor produced the image of Tampa as a neanderthal outpost in an area containing enlightened cities such as Sarasota, St. Petersburg, and Orlando.
In addition to DOJ admonitions regarding racial profiling, other Buckhorn blunders included denial of manmade climate change, his transformation of downtown into an armed camp during the 2012 Republican National Convention, his creepy proclamation from a machine gun turret that he would relish killing journalists, his outrageous defense of gender discrimination within the Tampa Fire Department, and his declaration that he owed no apology to people of color.
Castor, known by many as “Buckhorn 2.0,” continues his spurious policies while the City Hall PR machine continues to churn out Candyland propaganda dutifully regurgitated by the obsequious Tampa Bay Times.
A year before her 2019 election, Castor said the biking while black policy “was a mistake” without actually issuing a formal apology to Tampa’s black residents. They comprise one-quarter of Castor’s forgotten constituency.
Castor won the mayoralty, topping a notably weak eight-person field and supported by 14 percent of registered voters. She did not win a precinct with predominantly black voters.
It’s fair to say that most Tampans want substantive, positive change, even if it means dragging the city kicking and screaming its way into the 21st century.