Tampa will be in the spotlight like never before as host of this summer's Republican National Convention and all of the media and protesters who come with it. So it's comforting, with all of the talk about security, to hear Tampa police Chief Jane Castor talk equally about the need to protect civic rights and the city's image.
Castor has been making the rounds to discuss how police will handle the crush of delegates, politicians, media members and protesters expected at the convention, from Aug. 27-30 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. The message she is sending is an encouraging one. The downtown will be secure — but also open for business. That is good news for employers, and for anyone looking to cash in on the event. Parking may be scarce and some streets will be closed. But life will operate as normally as possible.
Castor is also showing a real sensitivity to how Tampa is seen across the globe. She recognizes that the city will not score any points by overly restricting the free movement of its residents and visitors. Asked recently if the police would close downtown's signature park, Curtis Hixon, and convert it into a temporary jail, Castor said: "(That) doesn't make a whole bunch of sense." She also wants local police — not officers from outside agencies — on the front lines dealing with protesters. Local officers have a larger vested interest, Castor believes, in projecting a positive image of their community.
Castor is a level-headed chief whose straightforward style has long fostered public faith in her leadership. Her department has been proactive in reaching out to make this first-ever event in Tampa Bay a smooth success. She is setting the right tone about the balance between security and freedom of movement, and her regard for accountability sets a standard that will filter through the ranks. The community should be pleased with her approach and confident the planning is off on the right foot.