Retiring Tampa Police Chief has long career with department

Tampa Police Chief Eric Ward (Source: Tampa Police)

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Tampa Police Chief Eric Ward started his career as a police officer in Tampa in 1988. It’s the only department he’s ever worked for.

He graduated from Hillsborough High, grew up in East Tampa and has been with TPD for 29 years.

Thursday, he announced he’s calling it quits.

“It wasn’t an easy decision but yes, it’s time. I’m looking forward to the next chapter,” Ward said.

In 2015, Mayor Bob Buckhorn promoted Ward to chief, replacing retiring chief Jane Castor.

“When I came on this agency almost 29 years ago, I just wanted to be a police officer and the mayor gave me an opportunity to lead such a great agency. That speaks volumes for his trust in me,” Ward said.

It was trust needed right off the bat.

The very day Ward was sworn in as chief in 2015, he inherited a major issue, a Department of Justice investigation into disparities of African-Americans ticketed on bicycles.

He said he worked to get the department in a better direction.

“The majority of my career I’ve had to put out fires,” Ward said. “As the chief of police, that was just another obstacle we had to get over. So I took it, and embraced it and looked at our practices and how we can improve them. I made some changes and the numbers speak for themselves.”

Other numbers he’s proud of was one of his core challenges, dropping violent crime. It was down 16.5 percent in 2015-2016.

Ward leaves office at the end of the month. He took a job as director of security for Coca Cola Florida.

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