Last Friday, New Times broke the story about the Broward Public Defender's Office stepping up to challenge the Fort Lauderdale Police Department on the practice of using the city's bike ordinance to stop African-Americans in a disproportionate number. "Biking while black," as Howard Finkelstein called it, is a clear case of "racial profiling."
The Fort Lauderdale PD pushed back against Finkelstein's assertions last week and also questioned his office's stats. But now, the police have backtracked, admitting Finkelstein's numbers pointing out a disparity are on point.
After conducting its initial review, Finkelstein's office found that between December 2010 and 2013, black males made up 85 percent of the individuals handed citations due to bike ordinance violations -- 395 out of 437. The disparity was enough to prompt a letter from Finkelstein to State Attorney Michael Satz protesting the practice.
When New Times talked to Fort Lauderdale Chief Frank Adderley last Friday about those stats, he said the numbers he had for review showed 3,180 citations since 2010, with 1,964 of the violators black and 1,135 white.
So who was right?
This week, the Fort Lauderdale PD told New Times the numbers Adderley cited were in fact the number of total bikes registered. The total number of citations given from 2010 to present, according to department spokesperson DeAnna Greenlaw, is 458. Black males did receive a disproportionate number of those citations, 397. White males received 53 citations. Greenlaw says the original, less glaring numbers were handed out because of a mix-up inside the department about media requests.
When we spoke to Adderley last week, the chief, who's African-American, vehemently denied his department was racially profiling bike riders with the ordinance. He said that enforcement of the bike registration law is being used as a tool to fight crime in the black community, where residents are begging him to stop drug dealers and robbers.
The Sun Sentinel found that Hollywood and North Lauderdale have similar ordinances but don't enforce them.