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Feds give Tampa nearly $4 million for 30 new cops, de-escalation training

The money comes on the heels of Sunday morning’s Ybor City shooting where a gunman killed two people.
 
Tampa Police Chief Lee Bercaw, top-center, speaks to officers before they patrol Ybor City during Halloween in Tampa. This week, the department announced a $4 million federal grant that will help hire 30 new officers.
Tampa Police Chief Lee Bercaw, top-center, speaks to officers before they patrol Ybor City during Halloween in Tampa. This week, the department announced a $4 million federal grant that will help hire 30 new officers. [ JEFFEREE WOO | Times ]
Published Nov. 2, 2023|Updated Nov. 2, 2023

Tampa’s police force is set to expand with 30 new officers thanks to a pair of grants totaling almost $4 million doled out Thursday by the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Tampa Police Department will receive more than $3.7 million from the feds for hiring new officers, according to senior officials within the federal justice department. Another $160,000 will be allocated for de-escalation training to prevent the unnecessary use of force within the police department.

The federal funding comes just days after a shooting in Ybor City early Sunday morning left two people dead and 15 others wounded by gunfire.

“This past weekend, we experienced a shooting in our community in one of our busiest districts in which two individuals lost their lives, and several individuals were injured in the crossfire,” Tampa Mayor Jane Castor told reporters in an online media call Thursday morning.

“This funding that has been announced today will play an important role in our work to reduce gun violence in our community,” she said.

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor is shown in this photo from September. This week, she announced the Tampa Police Department will receive 30 new officers thanks to federal grants.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor is shown in this photo from September. This week, she announced the Tampa Police Department will receive 30 new officers thanks to federal grants. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

The cash injection is part of the more than $334 million in grants announced this week for law enforcement agencies nationwide through the federally operated Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. The funds aim to help hire more than 1,700 new cops across the country.

The Tampa Police Department is one of nearly 400 departments receiving two-year grants from the federal government to hire new officers, according to U.S. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco.

The new Tampa officers will play a “critical role” in engaging residents to reduce crime and will help improve community-oriented policing across the community, said Castor, who served as a police officer for more than three decades and is a former Tampa police chief.

The de-escalation training is “especially important to prevent unnecessary use of force,” Castor said, for officers who are responding to people having a mental health crisis or are under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Monaco cited data from the FBI showing murder and manslaughter dropped 6.4% nationwide between between 2021 and last year. There are indicators that the downward trend in violent crime continued into 2023, Monaco said.

Still, “we absolutely recognize that violent crime continues to threaten too many American communities,” Monaco told reporters. “The key to continued progress, though, is the partnerships we have with the law enforcement community and local governments we are supporting with today’s grants.”

Aerial drone image of the scene where Investigators worked to collect evidence from a shooting that left two dead and 18 injured along 7th Avenue on Sunday in Ybor City.
Aerial drone image of the scene where Investigators worked to collect evidence from a shooting that left two dead and 18 injured along 7th Avenue on Sunday in Ybor City. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

In Tampa, violent crimes committed with a firearm dropped 5% in 2022, and nonfatal shootings dropped 17% compared to 2021, police officials announced in January. Homicides in Tampa last year ticked up from the previous year: The city had 48 homicides in 2022 and 43 in 2021, according to the department.

Castor said she expects both grants will help strengthen the relationship between the Tampa Police Department and the community.

“This grant is incredibly important because, as we all know, there’s nothing that keeps our neighborhoods safe like having more boots on the ground,” Castor said.

“As being one of the fastest growing cities in the nation, we have to ensure that we have the resources necessary to continue to keep our city safe.”