Sep 20, 2021 - Politics

Mayor makes changes to controversial eviction program

Illustration of police badges under a microscope

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Just four days after the Tampa Bay Times released an investigation of a controversial Tampa Police Department program, Mayor Jane Castor announced reforms to it.

The investigation: Journalists Chris O'Donnell and Ian Hodgson reported that a TPD program started under former police chief and current mayor Castor urged landlords to evict hundreds of mostly Black tenants after arrests.

  • But families still were evicted even after charges were dropped.
  • The story leads with a family who was evicted after a 16-year-old stole $4.44 in change, a glove, a flashlight, a hoodie and wireless headphones.
  • The program, intended for "documented violent offenders, gang members or career criminals," led to the eviction.

Driving the news: Even after TPD's Twitter clapback, Castor admitted the program needed changes.

  • The city will now inform landlords only about "certain serious drug and violent felonies," the Times reports. Notices must be signed off by a police captain and landlords will only be notified about arrests on their properties.

But, but, but: Critics of the program say that's not enough.

  • Yale Philosophy Professor Jason Stanley called language used to teach the program "pre-genocidal" after Creative Loafing published slides used in police and landlord training that read, "Criminals are like weeds…The BEST way to kill a weed… Is to uproot it! (Eviction serves that purpose.)"
  • Hillsborough County NAACP president Yvette Lewis told the Times that if evictions based solely on arrests are still happening, that's a violation of renter’s civil rights.
  • Hillsborough County NAACP is planning a press conference next week to highlight concerns about the program.
"This program needs to be stopped. You’re treating housing as though it’s a privilege."
Yvette Lewis to the Tampa Bay Times

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