When Tampa police Chief Jane Castor picks up a basketball and challenges one of her 13-year-old son in a pickup game, she's reminded that her days of domination in the driveway may be winding down as he gets stronger and, frankly, she gets older. ¶ But she's also reminded of how much she gained from her days as a college athlete. Castor, a Chamberlain High grad, has harnessed a variety of leadership skills from her days as a basketball and volleyball player at the University of Tampa. ¶ A criminology major at UT, Castor, who stands 6 feet, made all-state in both sports as a senior and concluded her Spartan basketball career with 1,055 points and 508 rebounds. She also currently ranks as one of only four UT women's basketball players to record 1,000 points and 500 rebounds. ¶ She graduated in 1981 and started with the Tampa Police Department in 1984. In 2006, she was inducted into the UT Athletic Hall of Fame and in 2009, she was appointed police chief. ¶ Castor spoke to the Tampa Bay Times' Paul Driscoll about her athletic background, the Republican National Convention and her impending retirement.
How did your athletic experience help you work with others as you rose through the ranks? Were there concepts you learned from basketball and volleyball that help shape your leadership approach?
Life skills can be learned in a variety of ways. For me, it was on the athletic courts and fields, where I learned the skills that would successfully guide me through life.
The skills I learned through athletics include discipline, a strong work ethic, sense of fairness, teamwork, effective communication, importance of getting along well with others, and the ability to win and lose gracefully.
If I had to choose one skill that has served me well throughout my career, both in the community and within our department, it would be the ability to get along with others. Unfortunately, the importance of this attribute is woefully underestimated by a lot of people. Bringing people together with divergent backgrounds and opinions, showing that they have more similarities than differences, and getting them to work together toward a common goal is a wonderful accomplishment. This is the way I try to run the Tampa Police Department and the way in which I interact with our community.
Do you still play either today in your leisure time?
I played league volleyball for several years after graduation, but volleyball is something you have to maintain. It's a sport of timing, plus you have to have a group to play with. I love basketball because you can play by yourself or up to five people full court. I played city league basketball for years and years after I graduated from college, and I still play in tournaments every now and then. Actually, it's rather depressing. I was asked a few years ago to play in the senior games and I told the woman I wasn't 50 yet. She said, "As long as you're going to turn 50 in the next year, then it's okay to play," so I've played that for a couple of years now and that's a lot of fun. That's 3-on-3. Then, my boys are 13 years old, and one is quite the avid athlete and he loves basketball so we'll play out in the driveway.
When did your desire to become involved in law enforcement begin? Did you ever dream of being the chief of police?
No, I never dreamed of becoming the chief of police. And actually, as you stated, I went to college on an athletic scholarship and I did major in criminology, but I had aspirations of going into the federal service. When I graduated, Ronald Reagan was the president and he put a freeze on federal hiring and I had some friends that I had gone to the University of Tampa with and had come to the Tampa Police Department.
They called me up and they said, "You should try this out, you'd really like it." So I must say that I came to the Tampa Police Department with no earthly idea of what to expect. I consider myself very fortunate because I've been here almost 29 years and there's never been a day I didn't want to come to work. I certainly never had any aspirations or thoughts about being the chief of police.
Describe what it feels like to be a huge part of helping the city shine on the national stage during the Republican National Convention.
It's an incredible responsibility and I can say that while I'm not much of a worrier, I didn't breathe a sigh of relief until Friday, after the entire thing was complete. I know my officers and I know the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, but when you bring in 3,500 officers from around the state, you have to ensure that they all are going to follow your stated mission, so we put a great deal of effort into training and ensuring that everyone was prepared tactically, but then also that they understood our philosophy of enforcement and that was that everyone was to be treated with dignity and respect. And what worked very well for us was to meet with the protesters and basically, through dialogue, understand what they were trying to accomplish and what their goal was and whenever possible, to allow them to do that. It worked out very, very well for us.
Do you have any future personal or career goals that you'd like to share?
No, I don't have any past being the chief of police. I love what I do. I can't imagine anything that could top being a member of the Tampa Police Department, but I don't have any future plans. I'm slated to retire in 2014, so we'll just see where life takes me after that. I've had a great career and I'm quite certain that I'll miss it, but it's time for the next generation to take over and we have a great department and that's one of the things that gives me great comfort in the thought of retirement. The group that will inherit this department will make it better than we were able to make it. On one hand, there is some apprehension in retiring after you've been doing this for so long, but on the other hand to sit back and watch what the next generation of leaders at the Tampa Police Department are going to be able to accomplish will be very exciting.