Tampa Police Chief handles uncomfortable verbal complaint about recent wave of police officers being shot

Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor appeared last night at the Hillsborough County LGBTA Democratic Caucus December meeting at Perkins restaurant off of South Dale Mabry.

The newly appointed top cop in Tampa, who is in  just her 3rd month on the job after being selected to replace Steven Hogue in September, gave a short speech about some of the strategies the TPD will be employing in the coming year, before tackling questions from the audience that numbered around 35 people, including Tampa City Council members John Dingfelder and Mary Mulhern.

The reduction in crime begun under Hogue has been dramatic in Tampa over the past six years.  The Chief described how there have been only 19 homicides in Tampa with just a few weeks to go this year.  Last year there were 25.  In contrast, she said, one year in the late 1980's during the height of the crack cocaine epidemic, there were 87.

There was one slightly discordant note during the Q&A portion of her appearance.

Castor had been discussing what she said was a recent wave of violence against police officers.

Tampa Police Corporal Mike Roberts was killed back in August, and more recently, 4 officers were shot and killed in Washington state.

Then a member of the audience, Gary Williams, asked Castor about the TPD's "policy to harass the homeless."

Castor replied that there was no such policy, and said that it was funny that anyone would think so.

Williams immediately interjected, "“No, it’s not funny at all.”

Castor replied, “No, it’s funny that you say that …how could we have a policy to harass any group of citizens? "

Mitchell then interrupted her, stunning the audience by saying, "“And that’s why you’re getting shot so often, it’s because citizens don’t like you anymore. “

Before she could respond, Mitchell then said that citizens are also fed up with politicians.

Castor answered that shooting at officers was hardly an appropriate response for any anger directed towards them.

Mitchell said he did not say that.  Castor then segued from that awkward exchange to discussing how the police try to balance the needs of all citizens, including the homeless.

When questioned afterwards, Williams initially declined to give his name to CL.  He then relented.  We realized we had seen him around before.  He himself had made news earlier this decade when he sued (and lost in court )Hillsborough County after he was terminated as an employee of the county's television station after making graphic remarks to former Commissioner Ronda Storms.

The policies begun by Hogue and now being continued (and tweaked by Castor) are extremely interesting, and CL hopes to report soon on how the Tampa Police Department has been able to keep crime down, while maintaining a relatively good relationship (at least that we're aware of ) with the general public.

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