Quite a big deal has been made of Jane Castor’s appointment as Tampa’s first female chief of police. The 25-year-veteran of the Tampa Police Department admits the media has made a bigger deal about her appointment than expected and wishes more stories would focus on the job rather than her gender.
But anytime Castor feels like basking in the publicity of her new appointment, her home life keeps her grounded.
“My sons tell their friends that I’m not a real cop,” Castor says while sitting behind her desk in an office overlooking the City of Tampa. “They say that I don’t arrest people and put them in jail, I’m just a desk cop.”
Castor, who is currently single, is raising two 10-year-old boys along with her former partner. She didn’t give details about the adoption, but says she has custody of the boys half of the time.
“My kids don’t really see having two moms as any different than their friends who have a mom and a dad,” Castor says. “The big adjustment for them has been when people recognize me or stop to talk to me in a Publix. Now they’re to the point where they just say, ‘Mom, we’ll be over in the toys; find us when you’re done talking.’”
The two boys, who Castor asked that we not identify because of her high-profile position, attend a Tampa school that has progressive views when it comes to LGBT issues. She says the school, the other students and the administration are very receptive to same-gender parents.
“There are so many blended families there,” Castor says of the grade school. “Kids are getting raised by grandparents, two moms, two dads. I think that as long as a child is in a loving and safe environment with structure, that’s what’s important.”
Since her promotion to chief of police earlier this fall, Castor has had to devote even more time to her job. She has made public appearances throughout Tampa—from the Tampa International Gay and Lesbian Film Festival to street fairs in downtown Tampa. She says she doesn’t attend LGBT events because she’s a lesbian, however. She attends them because the City of Tampa is supportive of the LGBT community, and so is the Tampa Police Department.
Any time police officers are working an event like the film festival or the former Winter Pride Tampa Bay, they volunteer their services, which Castor says speaks volumes to the department’s respect for the LGBT community.
“We have a large number of gay officers and the community is comfortable with the department,” says Castor, who used to be the department’s LGBT community liaison. “But I’m not naive enough to think that everyone is happy with what we do here 100% of the time.”
In every situation involving the police, there is always a party that may feel they were treated unfairly, Castor admits. She says that when a police officer must make a decision as to who is wrong or right in a situation, the one on the perceived “wrong” side may feel they were treated unjustly.
“That can be tricky,” Castor says. “When we come in to referee a situation, someone could feel discriminated against because we didn’t agree with them. I’ve gotten that call where someone says, ‘Your department made that decision because I’m gay.’ But when that same person hears the explanation behind the decision, they seem to understand.”
Castor says police work can sometimes be compared to parenting, although parenting, she says, has much different rewards.
Historic role model
Since Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio promoted Castor to chief of police after former Chief Steve Hogue retired, the 49-year-old has made public appearances throughout the city—and not just at LGBT events. She is a repeat speaker at the Great American Teach In and takes her position as a role model very seriously.
“There are times I wish the media would just focus on me being the police chief and not the ‘first female’ police chief,” Castor says. “It’s not that I don’t recognize the historic significance of the position, but the bottom line is that I’m a police chief, just as my predecessors have been.”
But even Castor can’t escape the influence she has on the community—especially children. When she makes a public appearance, Castor says the children attending seem to view her as a superstar.
“I really didn’t think this position would be such a big deal to kids,” Castor says. “I was at a scene in East Tampa awhile back and these young girls would come up to me and ask to shake my hand. It was humbling. It really makes you want to lead by example.”
And Castor has her own role models and influences. She deems Iorio a friend and she says she respects the two-term mayor as a leader, as a woman and as a law enforcement advocate.
“I get along well with Mayor Iorio and she runs this city as a business,” Castor says. “Law enforcement couldn’t have a better advocate out there. When an officer is injured, she is right there with us. She is part of the police department family.”
The goal of the department, of course, is to create a safe city, and Castor is confident the Tampa police have done that. Since Iorio took office in 2003, Castor said the city’s crime rate has seen a reduction of 50%.
“That’s not to say we’re done,” Castor says. “All crime is problematic. We are focused on four—robberies, burglaries, auto burglaries and auto theft.”
By focusing on those crime areas, Castor says the police will have a ripple-effect on other crimes.
“We have a focused effort on juveniles right now,” Castor says. “We do probation checks, enforce curfews and work with school administration. Since we’ve begun that we’ve seen a 71% reduction in auto thefts.”
Castor says her two boys, whom she and her former partner adopted when they were less than two-years-old, are very familiar with the work police departments do and have been at the Tampa Police Department many times. The two even helped their mom move into her brand new office.
However, neither seems 100% committed to a career in law enforcement.
“Oh, their careers are an ever-evolving discussion,” Castor laughs. “One says he really wants to be a canine officer but he doesn’t want to use a taser. He says he doesn’t want to use one because he doesn’t like shots. Trips to the doctor are quite the adventure.”
When the boys aren’t thinking about tasers and canines, they consider roles as professional soccer players, race car drivers and professional fishermen. Castor says she encourages all of their interests, but she doesn’t foresee a huge career for either boy on the soccer field.
“They play against some bigger kids and they haven’t won a game,” Castor says. “They have fun, which is important, but when they say they want to play professionally I just tell them, ‘You guys are young, we’ll see what happens.’ They are very athletic though. They play flag football and basketball.”
Recently, Castor says the boys, who are not twins, tried out for but didn’t make their school’s basketball team. While they were expectedly disappointed, Castor says she told the story of Michael Jordan.
“I told them that he didn’t make it his first time out and he became a basketball superstar,” Castor says. “It can be really challenging with kids. You have to know what to say and when to say it, all while wondering if you’re doing the right thing. You want to bring them up with a moral foundation, to be kind, and to understand right versus wrong.”
When she’s not representing the Tampa Police Department, Castor spends time with her two boys and her nine-year-old and three-year-old Labrador Retrievers. The police chief says she’s always loved animals and likes the temperament her Labs have around her boys.
“Those dogs provide hours of entertainment,” Castor says. “One of the dogs is in the pool by 7 a.m. each day. When we go to the river, the three-year-old literally launches himself into the water to go after a stick. They are definitely part of the family.”
And Castor’s family is just how she wants it. She says she’s not looking for a partner or to date—mostly because of her commitment to her sons and to her job.
“I’m married to my kids and my job,” she says. “I like it like that.”
Setting a positive example is the best way Castor knows to parent, and she says despite her insane schedule, the stress of raising children is far outweighed by the rewards it brings.
“You always worry about your kids, no matter where they are or what you’re doing,” Castor says. “But when you see them and you get those arms around your neck, everything you go through is well worth it.”