Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa police No. 2 in state for officers murdered

TAMPA — Two Tampa police officers shot to death in June. Another gunned down in August last year. If it seems as if the Tampa Police Department has endured more than its share of grief, the numbers back that up, a researcher says.

Tampa ranks second in Florida for officers murdered on the job, both in rate and number, according to a University of South Florida criminologist who studied 20 years of FBI statistics on the state's large and midsized police departments.

In that period, Tampa lost six officers in deaths regarded as felonies.

"We believe it's a reflection on the inherent danger and unpredictably of the law enforcement profession," Tampa police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said. "We train and equip our officers to stay as safe as possible, but unfortunately tragedy has no boundaries."

Officers David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab, killed June 29, were following protocol, she said, and "there was nothing they could have done to prevent it from happening."

She said the department analyzes the circumstances surrounding each shooting to see if policy or training updates are needed.

The Broward County Sheriff's Office has buried one more officer than the Tampa police. Broward's force is about one-third larger than Tampa's.

In the USF study — conducted by associate criminology professor Lorie Fridell — the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office had the highest rate of officer killings. The North Florida agency has seen three officers shot to death in the past two years.

An Okaloosa Sheriff's Office spokesman said the agency hasn't changed any policies due to the shootings. But it now places more focus on Taser-related training for officers, said Capt. J.D. Peacock. In April 2009, two deputies were shot to death by a man who pulled a handgun after an officer shocked him with a Taser.

Broward Sheriff's Office spokesman Jim Leljedal said the agency has tweaked a few policies over the years, but he didn't elaborate.

"Basically, I like to lay the blame on the killer and not try to blame the policy," he said.

Tampa has seen more officers killed than several other regional law enforcement agencies combined. The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office had two deaths in the past 20 years, and the Pasco County Sheriff's Office had one. No deaths were reported by Clearwater or St. Petersburg Police Departments, or by Sheriff's Offices in Hernando and Pinellas County.

Fridell's study did not include accidental deaths on the job, such as car crashes.

She looked only at agencies that had 200 or more sworn personnel in 1995. That left out the 1993 shooting death of Officer Jeffery Tackett, who worked for the Belleair Police Department.

Fridell said it's difficult to draw conclusions about Tampa from the data because officer killings are still unusual occurrences.

"It could be that these data just represent horrible bad luck in the Tampa jurisdiction," she said. "On the other hand, it would be worthwhile to explore whether there are areas that can be strengthened."

She mentioned that an agency with a high rate might look into whether there are training exercises or body armor available that could increase officer safety.

McElroy said that training has been a priority for police Chief Jane Castor since she took over in September. Tampa officers' jobs are dangerous because they initiate a lot of their work, McElroy said. They don't wait for 911 calls — they go out and investigate suspicious activities and people, she said.

"There's just countless times that our officers are confiscating guns and dealing with dangerous suspects, where things could go bad and they don't," she said. "The way we've been able to reduce the number of crimes that are committed in our city is through proactive policing."

Citywide, crime decreased 15.8 percent in 2009. It was the seventh consecutive year the crime rate has dropped, for a total decrease of 56 percent since 2002.

Mayor Pam Iorio said officer deaths have been a source of great sorrow for her.

Many times, she said, she asks herself "why?"

"There is no good answer," she said.

"I have learned that there is nothing routine about what our officers do everyday. Our officers are proactive and never stop trying to make Tampa a safer city."

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at jvandervelde@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3433.

Two decades of police killings

While some bay area agencies have escaped deaths of officers on the job, Tampa has seen more than average.

Tampa Police Department: 6 (David Curtis and Jeffrey Kocab, 2010, Mike Roberts, 2009; Lois Marrero, 2001; Randy Bell and Ricky Childers, 1998)

Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office: 2 (Ronald Harrison, 2007, John Tauer, 2003)

Pasco County Sheriff's Office: 1 (Charles "Bo" Harrison, 2003)

Clearwater Police Department: 0

Hernando County Sheriff's Office: 0

Pinellas County Sheriff's Office: 0

St. Petersburg Police Department: 0

Note: Only agencies with 200 or more sworn personnel in 1995 are included.

Sources: FBI statistics, USF criminology professor Lorie Fridell

Tampa police No. 2 in state for officers murdered 07/27/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 28, 2010 6:58am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Minors also a training ground for umpires with big-league dreams

    The Heater

    Umpire Tom Fornarola, 23, left, and Taylor Payne, 24, facing, talk before the start of the Gulf Coast League game between the New York Yankees and the Detroit Tigers at the Tigertown complex in Lakeland, Fla. on Wednesday, July 5, 2017.
  2. In Florida, nation's only lightning center closes after DARPA cuts funding

    Environment

    University of Florida professor Martin Uman usually spends much of this summer at an old Army base about an hour northeast of Gainesville, shooting rockets at thunderclouds, then measuring the bright flashes of lightning that followed.

    Rocket-and-wire triggered lightning at the University of Florida's International Center for Lightning Research and Testing, which recently lost federal funding. A rocket trailing a grounded wire is launched toward an active thunderstorm at the ICLRT. One launch is from a tower, one from ground. When the wire is about as high as the Empire State Building, lightning is induced to strike the top of the wire, much as it strikes tall objects like the ESB. Interestingly, the cloud charge source is about 3 miles high, so a 300 yard-long wire can cause a 3 mile or more long lightning.  After that, there are several normal tortuous strokes ( downward leaders from the cloud charge/upward return strokes) which can be seen as the wind blows the individual strokes to the right. The time between strokes is about 50 thousands of a second. Between some strokes, continuing current can be seen. Continuing current is what generally starts forest fires. [Photo by Dr. Dustin Hill]
  3. Editorial: Reasonable clarity on gambling in Florida

    Editorials

    Gambling expansion strategies — and misfires — are nearly an annual ritual in Florida. There were the eight counties that voted to allow slot machines but were blocked by the Florida Supreme Court. There was the governor's $3 billion deal with the Seminole Tribe in 2015 that was never approved by the …

    Gov. Rick Scott agreed to a much simpler deal with the Seminole Tribe that embraces the status quo instead of expansion. And that’s a good thing.
  4. Amid U.S. real estate buying binge by foreign investors, Florida remains first choice

    Real Estate

    Foreign investment in U.S. residential real estate recently skyrocketed to a new high with nearly half of all foreign sales happening in Florida, California and Texas.

    A National Association of Realtors annual survey found record volume and activity by foreign buyers of U.S. real estate. Florida had the highest foreign investment activity, followed by California and Texas. [National Association of Realtors]
  5. Editorial: Hillsborough smartly embraces diversion program for youths

    Editorials

    Children who commit minor crimes can pay for their mistakes for a lifetime — losing a chance to attend college, join the military or obtain credit and a good job. That is unjust to the individuals and a burdensome cost to society, and Hillsborough County is taking the right new approach by giving some juveniles a …

    Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren has announced an agreement between law enforcement agencies and the courts that will allow first-time offenders who commit nonviolent crimes as juveniles to be issued civil citations rather than face an arrest and prosecution.