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Buckhorn: Castor to remain police chief after May retirement

TAMPA — Mayor Bob Buckhorn made it clear Tuesday morning: Police Chief Jane Castor will stay on for a year beyond her scheduled May 6 retirement.

“My chief isn’t going anywhere,” Buckhorn told hundreds of city employees and residents assembled at the Tampa Armature Works building for his State of the City speech.

Buckhorn sat next to Castor on the front row of the audience before he took the stage to give his speech.

Buckhorn’s statement was the first thing he had said publicly about Castor’s future since news broke last week that she would be forced out by the rules governing the city’s deferred retirement option plan. DROP lets public employees continue to work their pension payments are put into an escrow fund.

The program is limited to five years or 30 years of service, whichever comes first. Castor hit 30 years with the TPD in February.

The details of Castor’s contract -- when it will start, how much it will pay and how it will work -- are still being sorted out, said Buckhorn’s spokeswoman, Ali Glisson.

City attorney Julia Mandell said the contract can be renewed each year for up to five years.

Castor’s current salary is $156,062.

She has been in the DROP program since February 2010 and has accumulated $514,362.30 as of the end of September. Depending on market conditions, that total could grow to more than $589,000 as of the end of May, said Tiffany Ernst, interim plan manager for the city’s Police and Fire Pension Fund.

Those funds won’t be available until the end of the year, Ernst said. At that point, Castor can either take a lump-sum payment (minus a significant tax hit), roll the money directly into an Individual Retirement Account or similar vehicle or split the difference, Ernst said.

Castor’s first payment as a City of Tampa retiree will come on the last business day of June and will amount to $9,432.83 after a cost-of-living adjustment of nearly $700.

The contract continuing Castor’s service a chief will have to get approval from Tampa City Council, which could take action on it April 3 or April 17.

Council Chairman Charlie Miranda told Castor publicly last week he would support her return as a contract employee.

Buckhorn’s decision to keep Castor on board isn’t without precedent, said Jack Rinchich, president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police.

The organization doesn’t have numbers about how many chiefs are retained that way, Rinchich. But, he added, his own situation is an example of how it works.

Rinchich spent 26 years as the chief of police for the University of Charleston in West Virginia. He retired in 2012 after 40 years as a police officer and was hired back as a part-time employee and consultant to the new chief, his former assistant.

“There’s a real need for qualified police chiefs,” Rinchich said. “Especially when the chief’s popular, there’s a tendency not to want to let go.”

The decision also gives Buckhorn more time to find a replacement, Rinchich said.

Castor has spent 30 years on the Tampa police force. She was promoted to chief by former Mayor Pam Iorio after her predecessor Steve Hogue retired in 2009.

Between Hogue and Castor, crime in Tampa dropped 69 percent over the past 11 years, Buckhorn said.

“That’s more than 150,000 less victims,” Buckhorn said. “That’s you and me.”

Over that same period, the department became more data-driven and community-oriented, Buckhorn said.

City councilman Harry Cohen said he “wasn’t terribly surprised” by Buckhorn’s decision.

“I can understand why he would want to do that,” he said.

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