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Wednesday, Nov 26, 2014
Joe Henderson Columns

Henderson: Tampa best served if Police Chief Castor stays

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Published:   |   Updated: March 25, 2014 at 10:46 AM

I don’t know if Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor is having second thoughts about her scheduled retirement on May 6, but I hope she is.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn has been unusually mum on the subject of Castor’s potential retirement, but I hope that’s because he is looking for a way to keep her on the job.

What I do know is Castor ranks among the best to ever sit in the chief’s chair. She is, as people like to say, a cop’s cop.

She helped keep the city buttoned-down and safe during the Republican National Convention. She has dealt forcefully with officers who broke the rules.

She was a rock for her department and the city in times of sorrow, like when Dontae Morris murdered officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab. I believe most people would be happy if she stayed on the job for several more years.

It’s not that simple, unfortunately.

Five years ago, she voluntarily entered the city’s Deferred Retirement Options Plan — or, as it is better known, the DROP program. It’s a great benefit that will allow Castor, a 30-year veteran of the department, to draw roughly her same salary in retirement as she does while on the force.

She is currently paid $156,062 per year. Her retirement date is scheduled for May 6.

There is plenty of precedent, though, for Buckhorn to keep Castor on the job with a contract as a consultant but still in charge of the department. City Council Chairman Charlie Miranda said he would be fine with that, although he added it’s Buckhorn’s call whether he wants to bring that deal to the council for approval.

“I think she has done a very good job, but I don’t know if (Buckhorn) is looking at someone else,” Miranda said. “I don’t know if there is a search covering 15 galaxies to find someone to replace her. What I do like about her is that doesn’t give you any jab or jibber. She tells you like it is.”

Since those actually closest to the situation — Castor and Buckhorn — aren’t talking publicly, let’s engage in a little speculation, shall we?

Signing Castor to a consultant’s contract at least through the end of Buckhorn’s first term as mayor next March might trigger some grumbling that Castor would be double-dipping by drawing her retirement while she’s still drawing a salary.

Well, those are sunk costs anyway. She has earned her pension, and whoever sits in the chief’s chair will earn that salary. Basically the same amount of money will be going out.

And who would a potential successor be? Buckhorn always thinks several moves ahead. This is just a guess, but with the deadline for Castor’s retirement coming up in little more than a month, I would guess that any potential successor would have already been chosen to ensure a smooth transition.

Since we have heard no leaks about this from anyone inside TPD, we can guess it’s because no one has been tapped on the shoulder. Maybe, again speculation, that’s because Castor doesn’t want to quit. She is only 54.

We’ll know soon enough.

For now, I’ll leave the ever colorful and quotable Miranda with the last word until we hear something official.

“Someone like that, do you think she’s just going to sit home and knit?” Miranda said. “I don’t think so. If she and the mayor can work something out, I’d be all right with it.”

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