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MAYBE REWARD CAN DETER MORE TRAGEDY

When it comes to the funds offered for helping to capture the man accused of killing two Tampa police officers, reward money seems like the wrong term.

You can't put a dollar value on the officers' lives.

But the reward has become an issue. Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin White called early Wednesday morning to say his constituents were worried that the confidential informant who convinced Dontae Morris to turn himself in might not get the reward because of the informant's criminal background.

Police Chief Jane Castor said later Wednesday that officials likely would give the informant the reward, but the concern is still prevalent.

I understand the need for officials to be judicious in deciding how the reward is handed out. They have to balance legal, moral and perception concerns against the help the informant provided.

But the informant clearly had unique access and information. The reward must be given.

Anything less leaves a promise unfulfilled and risks fueling anti-snitching sentiments that already plague many criminal investigations. Now, instead of snitches get stitches, it's get snitches get dollars.

I would welcome a simple sense of right and wrong as motivation. But short of that, maybe this reward will serve as a warning to future criminals: There's no limit to what we will pay to keep our community whole.

There is no honor among thieves (or drug dealers), but maybe this will prompt more people to step forward. Maybe a new intensity from both the community and the police will bring closure to the unsolved murders that haven't gotten as much attention.

The amount can't represent the lives lost, but it's a small price to pay if it brings the community together in the wake of a tragedy.

That's all I'm saying.

- ehooper@sptimes.com

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