Civil rights groups say program alerting landlords when tenants arrested discriminates against black people

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The following contains partial editorial content which is the opinion of the author.

TAMPA, FL- This argument sounds kind of racist to us.

The Tampa Bay Times reports that the NAACP and the ACLU of Florida are among those seeking to end an anti-crime initiative which they claim puts unfairly puts blacks at risk of eviction.

The initiative was begun by the Tampa Police Department where landlords were encouraged to evict either individuals or families based on arrests, which also included some where charges were later dropped.

It’s almost as if the NAACP and ACLU believe that blacks offend at a greater rate than other demographics. Seems pretty racist.

The NAACP, ACLU, and other groups such as the NAACP Hillsborough County Branch wrote to city officials and demanded they “immediately end” Tampa’s Crime-Free Multi Housing program.

Tampa’s mayor, Jane Castor on Thursday said she stands by the program, begun in 2013 when she was serving as Tampa’s chief of police.

Castor launched the program in order to address drug and gang related crime in apartment complexes.

It involved landlords who were encouraged to have tenants sign an addendum to their leases whereby they acknowledged they could be evicted if they or others in the household became involved in criminal activity.

Tampa police notified landlords when their tenants were arrested.

The complaints from the civil rights groups stemmed from an investigation conducted by the Times where they found that 90 percent of 1,100 people flagged as a result of the program were black tenants.

Also, fully 75% of the 100 apartment complexes police enrolled in the program were in neighborhoods where the majority of residents were either black or Hispanic, based on U.S. Census block data.

“Put simply, the Program does far more harm than good, and that harm is borne almost exclusively by black people,” the letter stated. “By tightly weaving together housing policy and the criminal legal system, the Program compounds the over-policing of people of color in Tampa and causes catastrophic consequences for tenants of color.”

Other organizations that signed the letter includes the ACLU of Florida Greater Tampa Chapter, the Civil Rights Clinic at New York University, and the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

The Times said their “investigation revealed that officers sent hundreds of notices that told landlords they were ‘required to take immediate action through notice to cure, notice to vacate or eviction’ of arrested tenants.”

As a result of the program, Tampa police through a database showed some 300 tenants as being “evicted.” The Times noted however that it was unclear if those persons were evicted, forced out of their homes by a notice to vacate, or just moved.

The report noted that landlords would receive notices of arrests of juveniles, domestic violence and other misdemeanor and so-called non-violent arrests. Tampa police sent some 140 notices in which they had included arrests which took place over a mile from where tenants lived. In addition, there were also a number of cases sent to landlords where charges were later dropped.

Aside from the civil rights groups, some local officials are also concerned about the program.

For example Democrat state representative Dianne Hart sent a letter to Castor in which she demanded she immediately discontinue the program, which she said, “is putting people in danger of homelessness, discrimination and police violence.”

Of course, it’s always about the police, not about the criminals.

In an interview with the Times, Hart said the program has a disparate impact on blacks, and also questioned why the threat of eviction was being used during a public health and affordable housing crisis.

Typical for a Democrat when it’s convenient, Hart used children as a cudgel to make her point.

“We need to find another way to do this as opposed to the police sending a letter to my landlord and me getting kicked out with children,” she said.

We would be curious if Hart is also concerned about children being trafficked into the country from Afghanistan and Mexico, as well as the number killed through abortion every year.

Another Democrat who serves on Tampa’s city council, Chairman Orlando Gudes who was a 26-year member of the Tampa PD also wrote to Castor seeking a 90-day stay on the program in order to reevaluate it.

“We need to take a look at what we are doing and making sure the police department is not doing evictions,” Gudes told the Times.

Castor, however, remains indignant and continues to support the program, saying it has made high-crime apartment complexes safer for residents.

“Everyone deserves to live in a safe neighborhood, regardless of their economic status,” she said in a statement to the Times. “As violent crime is spiking in cities across America, this is no time to stop effective collaborations between the community, law enforcement and property managers that are making our city safer.”

Castor also reached out to the Hillsborough NAACP in a letter, noting she wanted to provide that organization with “facts and much needed context” about the Times investigation.

In her letter, Castor wrote that the program has “dramatically reduced crime in communities where many of our most vulnerable residents live.”

The letter included a quote from a longtime resident of one complex, who wrote: “The [drug] dealers are gone. Thank you TPD…I’m finally able to sleep.”

Another resident told the Times that while she appreciates living in a safe neighborhood, she believes it is unfair that mostly black tenants who face eviction while there aren’t the same consequences in white neighborhoods.

It would be important in order to add context to the story to know the crime rates in the black complex neighborhoods and the primarily white ones. As with any deployment of law enforcement personnel in any community, it is more effective to have those assets deployed in areas where they are needed. The same would seem to be the case for this program.

Tampa police provided statistics to the Times for the 51 complexes which participated in the program through last year, which showed that reports of serious crime had plummeted by some 28 percent since 2013. Conversely, crime reports had in fact risen at 11 of those properties.

The Times noted it wasn’t clear how much of those improvements can be levied based on the eviction program or other anti-crime programs. The outlet noted that the overall drop in crime at the participating properties matched closely with a 25 percent drop in violent and property crime reports in Tampa over the first seven years of the program.

The department has backed off on enforcement of the program since 2017, the Times said when they started requesting copies of letters sent to landlords. The outlet reported that after that, the department issued fewer letters to landlords and “toned down wording that instructed landlords to take action.”

The outlet said that police are continuing to report tenants to their landlords. Law Enforcement Today will report further if any additional details are forthcoming.

For our previous reporting on a black Tampa police officer fired, then reinstated for using the “N” word, we invite you to:

DIG DEEPER

TAMPA, FL – A Tampa Police officer who was previously fired in March for reportedly using the n-word on two separate occasions in 2020 was given his job back earlier in August, following a Civil Service Board vote that found the punishment to be to harsh for the noted infractions.

Back in November of 2020, Tampa Police Officer Delvin White, who is black, came under investigation for two instances where he uttered the n-word.

One of the instances happened on November 13th, 2020, where he was inside of his patrol vehicle by himself and having a private phone conversation with his wife and used the phrase “ghetto n*****” during the phone call – where obviously no one was within earshot.

A second incident involved a combative black juvenile suspect back on November 30th, 2020, who had been allegedly threatening individuals at Middleton High School and started to physically resist arrest while hurling a slew of expletives at Officer White.

Twice during the arrest, Officer White uttered the expletive. In the first instance, the suspect was walking in front of the officer and saying to Officer White:

“What you mean ‘calm down’ bruh? I’m not fixing to calm down while you’re busy doing all this, bruh. What the fuck, bruh? Let my hair go, bruh.”

Officer White then quickly stated in response:

“You going to jail now, n****.”

The second instance Officer White used the expletive during the arrest, the officer had to physically take the suspect to the ground after continued instances of physical resistance and refusing to be placed in cuffs.

While taking the suspect to the ground and placing him into cuffs, Officer White said:

“N**** you tripping.”

After officials investigated the two instances, Officer White was fired in March of 2021 for “violations of policy that prohibit discriminatory conduct”, according to Tampa Police officials.

Flash forward to August 23rd, and the Civil Service Board voted unanimously that Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan took things a little too far in terminating the officer.

During the August 23rd hearing, Chief Dugan argued that he terminated Officer White because he was using that language while on-duty and said that it was a matter of professionalism:

“This isn’t about racism, this is about professionalism. Officer White isn’t playing golf with his frat brothers, he’s not playing poker, he’s wearing the uniform of a Tampa Police Department officer and speaking to a student that way.”

However, Bob McCabe, Officer White’s attorney present during the hearing, noted that the policy regarding using discriminatory language also reads that the policy must be applied in a consistent manner – and found cases going back several years where other officers were only given 15-day suspensions for similar infractions:

“This policy says in its own language that it will be uniformly applied in all circumstances.”

A former teacher at Middleton High also attended the hearing, coming to Officer White’s defense, noting how well respected the school resource officer was at the school and the impact he has on a student body that nearly 50% black:

“He understood where they came from and tried his best to help them understand that they don’t need to be a product of their environment.”

Board member Charlotte Hursey noted that losing someone like Officer White within the ranks of the Tampa Police Department may inadvertently do more harm than good for the department:

“I do not want to see the city lose an employee like that who obviously does his job above and beyond — a difficult job in, let’s face it, very difficult circumstances. It’s like cutting off your nose to spite your face.”

Officer White admitted during the hearing that he did use “a poor choice of words” while arresting the student back in November but noted that he used said expletives out of frustration in the moment and not as a means to invoke harm as a racial slur.

According to reports, Officer White has since been reassigned to patrol duties as opposed to the school resource officer duty he held prior to his March termination.

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