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Tampa uncuffed

Major finds it pays to stay

By SHANNON COLAVECCHIO-VAN SICKLER
Published September 2, 2005


Even though Tampa police Maj. Jane Castor didn't make it into the final round of the search for a police chief in fall of 2003, she vowed never to leave the department where she started her law enforcement career 19 years earlier.

"I was born and raised in Tampa," Castor said. "And I will be here for the rest of my career in whatever capacity they need me."

This week, Castor's dedication and hard work got her closer than ever to the top of the department.

Police Chief Steve Hogue promoted Castor, 45, to assistant police chief in charge of operations. The position was left vacant last month when Scott Cunningham became police chief for Cary, N.C.

"It wasn't an easy decision," Hogue said. "I had all five of my majors apply, and a couple of them would have made excellent assistant chiefs. She is just the complete package."

Castor (no relation to Betty Castor) has for the past three years been the major in charge of the district that includes New Tampa, parts of Seminole Heights, and the area near the University of South Florida and Busch Gardens.

She joined the department as a patrol officer in 1984, when she was 24. She has supervised drug wiretaps, investigated sex crimes and child abuse, and coordinated security for the Gasparilla parade. She represents Tampa on homeland security issues.

A Chamberlain High School graduate, she received her bachelor's degree from the University of Tampa, where she got a scholarship to play basketball and volleyball.

She also earned a master's degree in public administration in 1995 from Troy State University in Alabama. Grade point average: 4.0.

As the department's liaison to the gay and lesbian community, she worked with gay leaders and residents following the December 2003 disappearance of two men from a gay nightclub in Tampa.

There is talk that she could someday be Tampa's first female police chief.

"Oh, I like the job that Chief Hogue is doing," Castor said Thursday, when asked about her long-range interest in the top job.

"I came to this department to be a police officer on patrol. I loved my job and really didn't have aspirations of moving up to the ranks."

But now that she's this far up the ladder, she said she will help Hogue with his goal of further reducing crime.

Her promotion takes effect immediately.

Hogue announced his decision before the Tampa City Council on Thursday afternoon. Castor was there with her mother, her stepfather, siblings, her life partner and the two 6-year-old boys they have adopted from the Ukraine.

Castor said she is proud of her boys and the woman with whom she has chosen to spend her life.

She said wouldn't consider not sharing such an important moment with them - even if it did take place a short walk from the Hillsborough County government headquarters where commissioners recently banned recognition of gay pride events.

"A family is the cornerstone of what you are as a human being," Castor said. "It's important that they support you in all you do, and they should be there to reap the benefits of all the hard work."

SEEKING GAS BREAKS: It's one thing for Gov. Jeb Bush to tell civilians to conserve gas in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, but cutting back on travel isn't really an option for law enforcement.

"To reduce patrols would be far costlier to public safety than paying more at the pump," said Tampa police spokeswoman Laura McElroy.

Nonetheless, the city of Tampa this week created a task force to look at ways to cut down on gas consumption.

The police and fire departments are the city's biggest users of fuel. But public works, construction services and other departments use it, too. In all, the city operates 2,833 vehicles and pieces of equipment.

The city buys some fuel in bulk. Police officers use a special card to buy gas at local Shell stations. The purchases are charged directly to the city at a price below the market rate.

The task force also will devise a plan for guaranteeing the city has enough fuel for law enforcement, fire rescue and public works vehicles in case of an emergency.

"We need to make sure we can fill up our tanks," McElroy said.

Staff writer Janet Zink contributed to this report. Contact Shannon Colavecchio-Van Sickler at 813 226-3373 or svansickler@sptimes.com

[Last modified September 2, 2005, 02:15:35]


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