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A STRONG CHOICE FOR CHIEF

When something works, don't break it. That appeared to be Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio's logic Wednesday when she tapped Jane Castor to become the city's next police chief. As assistant chief, Castor has been instrumental in helping retiring Chief Steve Hogue drive down the city's crime rate by a remarkable 46 percent over the last six years. She is a good cop, comfortable in the public eye and has the confidence of the mayor. The City Council should welcome the appointment.

Hogue was arguably Iorio's best hire among an administration of top, fresh talent that she brought to City Hall after winning in 2003. Hogue had retired after a long career with TPD to become chief of the Fort Walton Beach Police Department. But Iorio brought him back, and through 2008 the city's crime rate dropped 46 percent. It dropped another 18 percent in the first half of this year. Officials credit Hogue's focus on four areas - burglary, robbery, auto burglary and auto theft - from which offenders often graduate to more serious crimes. Hogue also delegated more authority to command staff and required street officers to become more proactive.

Castor, 49, promised this very type of policing when she was passed over for the chief's job in 2003. Hogue continued to move her through the ranks. In her 25 years, the Tampa native has worked street and sex crimes, undercover narcotics and child abuse investigations. Her poise served her well as a spokeswoman for the department. She has a command that traces back to her achievement as the first female president of an academy class in Tampa. Castor is the right person to build on what Hogue started. As the city's first female chief, she is a role model for diversity and for the standard that Iorio has brought to public service.

Iorio owes her popularity in part to Hogue's achievements. He also carried on without the drama that consumed so many of his predecessors. Castor will need to thread that same needle - working for an elected mayor and City Council while dealing with the police union and being accountable to the public. She is a likable, inspiring figure to lead the 1,300 employees of the city's most important department. The public should commend Hogue for a job well done and give Castor the same support. She should remember that trust and respect go both ways in the playbook for good policing.

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