Police Chief Jane Castor set to retire after more than 30 years with Tampa Police Department

By : Steve Blanchard
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Tampa – At the close of business on May 8, Jane Castor will no longer be the chief of police for the Tampa Police Department. After more than three decades in law enforcement, the recent grand marshal of Tampa Pride is finally retiring—kind of.

Castor will run a nonprofit that will “start its work where the city budget stops,” she said.

Rise Tampa will raise money for advanced training, specialty equipment and new technology within the department that the city budget cannot fund. The foundation will also fund community outreach initiatives for at-risk children in Tampa’s most challenged neighborhoods, officials said.

On April 30, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn announced that Eric Ward will replace Castor. The 26-year veteran was encouraged by Buckhorn to follow Castor’s model.

The mayor said that Castor’s embrace of technology and intelligence-led policing helped combat crime since she was originally appointed by former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio. Buckhorn also stressed the need for increased diversity within the department and the active recruitment of minorities.

Castor described her successor as “the perfect choice.”

“He has the experience, the knowledge, the leadership ability and the temperament for this job,” Castor said during a press conference.

The outgoing chief has been a leader not only in the city, but in the LGBT community. Her out and proud attitude has made her a darling among LGBTs and an approachable law enforcement figure, beginning when she served as a liaison prior to her appointment.

During her tenure as Tampa Pride grand marshal in March, she said she was never afraid to show who she truly was in order to gain equality for others.

“I was born and raised here in the city,” Castor said. “One of [Mayor] Buckhorn’s goals has been to show how inclusive our city is and how we embrace our diversity.”

Watermark interviewed Castor before the department announced her plan to spearhead the Rise Tampa initiative. But she did say she planned to volunteer after retiring.

“I’m not the best planner, so I’m not sure what I’ll be doing in a week or two,” Castor laughed. “One thing I do know for sure is that I’m not moving from Tampa. I was born and raised here and this will be my home for life.”

She said that since she is raising two teenage boys, her roots remain deep in Hillsborough County.

“But I’ll be involved in some way,” she said. “I’ll be volunteering or I’ll be doing things that will improve our city for as long as I am able.”

As her tenure as chief wound down, Castor found herself honored by different groups and roasted by others. Comic Murv Seymour hosted a comedy roast for Castor at T. Pepin Hospitality Center that drew more than 400 business executives and investors. The night raised more than $100,000 for the police department.

While Castor is considered by many LGBTs as a role model and an advocate for equality, the law enforcement veteran does not consider herself as an activist for equality.

“I feel there are so many others who have done a great deal to further equal rights,” Castor said. “Kevin Beckner, Nadine Smith…there are a lot of people who have worked very hard for several years.”

Castor does admit that her role as police chief has proven to many that sexuality has nothing to do with professional capacities.

“Being who I am doesn’t make my job more difficult,” Castor said. “I don’t think citizens care one way or another. What they look for is someone who is doing a good job.

“When I was first named chief, I said the significance of being the first female wasn’t lost on me. But I wanted at the end of my tenure to be remembered as a good chief—not the first female or the first gay female chief. I just want to be remembered as being a good police chief.”

For more information on the foundation Castor will head, visit RiseTampa.org.

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