TAMPA—In its second swing at the front-runner on the same issue, David Straz’s campaign claimed again Monday that Jane Castor juked the stats while she was a high-ranking Tampa police official.
Steve Brock, 65, who left the department in 2011, appears in a new Straz campaign video recalling an incident in late 2010 or early 2011 in which he said a supervisor told him to downgrade what he thought was an attempted murder to an aggravated battery.
“He said he didn’t want that as an attempted homicide because of the stat,” Brock told the Times. Brock said he didn’t question the supervisor, who is now retired.
Brock said manipulation of crime statistics in police department began in the late 1990s and lasted until he retired from the department. He came back the next year as a civilian investigator for several months.
“It was a running joke,” Brock said.
Brock didn’t provide any documentation of a pattern of downgrading crimes. He said it was widely known in the department, echoing a similar claim made by another ex-Tampa cop last week.
Former Tampa police officer Gary Pruitt said he had been told to downgrade crimes, but thought it had happened in 2003 or 2004, before Castor was chief. He said he hadn’t looked at the overall data.
At the same news conference, Straz’s paid criminal statistics expert told reporters he hadn’t looked at any Tampa data and was basing his conclusions on intuition.
For months, Castor has touted a 70 percent reduction in crime when she was in a leadership role in the department.
She has rejected Straz’s claims as ridiculous.
Brock, who joined the department in 1981, said his supervisor in 2011 didn’t go into his motivations for telling him to log the crime in a supermarket parking lot on Gandy Boulevard as an aggravated battery instead of an attempted homicide.
He said he couldn’t recall any other specific incidents in the dozen or so years he says the manipulation took place in which he was ordered to downgrade a crime.
The Straz campaign said Brock contacted them and he isn’t being paid. Brock confirmed that account.
Both Brock and Pruitt had disciplinary issues while Tampa police officers.
Brock was suspended in 1998 for his third “standard of conduct” complaint, according to police department records.
Brock said he didn’t remember the suspension, but thought it may have had to do with some domestic issues with his ex-wife.
According to city records, Brock received a two-day suspension in 1998 after his wife filed a police report with the Hillsborough Sheriff’s office alleging that Brock injured her in an argument over commercial video tapes. The suspension order said Brock had been involved in several domestic violence incidents reported by his wife when she filed for a court order, including hitting her with a telephone and throwing her against a car.
Pruitt, who said last week his relationship with Castor soured before he left the department, was also disciplined for fathering a child with a subordinate. He is running for Hillsborough County sheriff for the second time. He lost to Sheriff Chad Chronister last year.
The Castor campaign said Straz’s attacks are baseless and they would deliver Straz the federal and state reviews of the department’s crime statistics.
"So he can do some homework before recklessly calling Tampa’s last three police chiefs liars. Before he destroys his reputation in the community, Mr. Straz should finally join Jane in focusing on issues rather than attacks,” said Castor campaign manager Tim Wagner.