Chief Eric Ward Announces Retirement After 29 Years of Dedicated Service
After 29 years with the Tampa Police Department, Chief Eric B. Ward today announced that he is retiring to take a position in the private sector. Ward was in the Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP) and scheduled to retire in 2018. His retirement will take effect later this month.
Ward, who announced his plans to TPD’s executive staff and employees earlier today, said he made the decision based primarily on two factors: he has accomplished the goals he set for himself as chief, and the new position represented a unique opportunity that he could not pass up.
“This has been an extremely difficult decision,” Ward said. “I have spent virtually my entire adult life at the Tampa Police Department. This department and the people here have made me the person that I am today. I will always be grateful to Mayor Bob Buckhorn for the experiences and opportunities to serve the Tampa community as their Chief of Police.”
Ward added, “I know that I’m leaving the department in excellent shape and in good hands. Now, I’m looking forward to the next chapter.’’
Ward will begin his new career with the rapidly expanding Tampa-based Coca-Cola Beverages Florida, LLC in the coming weeks.
Mayor Bob Buckhorn said he will conduct a national search to find Ward’s successor. During this transition, Assistant Chief Brian Dugan will serve as interim chief.
“From his time as a young officer to the leadership he’s provided to Tampa’s finest, I can certainly speak for the entire City of Tampa staff when I say Eric’s presence will be sorely missed,” said Mayor Bob Buckhorn. “His career and service to the City of Tampa has been impeccable at every turn and I am grateful for his years of service to the community and department he loves. The Tampa Police Department is better for his leadership and ready for its next chapter. We wish him all the best in his next endeavor.”
Ward grew up in the East Tampa community and graduated from Hillsborough High School. He devoted 29 years to the Tampa Police Department, making a difference in his hometown and making lifelong friends along the way.
At a time when many major cities around the nation have seen recent spikes in crime, Tampa has prevented this disturbing trend during Ward’s tenure. From 2015 to 2016, violent crime fell 16.5 percent citywide, and property crime decreased 6.8 percent. These decreases were reflected in each of the city’s three districts.
Since joining TPD in 1988, Ward gathered a wide range of first-hand experience in the department’s patrol and special operations functions including the Tactical Response Team, Honor Guard, Hostage Negotiation Team, the Criminal Intelligence Bureau, K-9, Gang Suppression Unit, Firehouse Program, Street Anti-Crime Squad, and Selective Enforcement Bureau. Chief Ward is also a certified instructor in Defensive Tactics and Fitness and Chemical Agents. During his tenure as a lieutenant in special operations, he served as the department’s Specialty Teams Commander and the Region Four (4) SWAT commander where he oversaw security at more than 800 city-sponsored events.
When he was sworn in as Chief of Police in May 2015, Chief Ward identified three goals that would provide direction for his tenure: reducing violent crime, provide relevant training of the officers, and a focus on Tampa’s youth.
The Department crafted several initiatives to increase community engagement especially with youth as an essential strategic element of crime prevention and crime fighting. He recently reorganized the community engagement efforts by creating a community affairs unit. The Department has hosted a series of Community Conversations in each of its three districts, providing informal opportunities for community members, Department leadership, and officers to discuss local issues – and discuss solutions.
Focus on our youth/community:
- TPD has expanded its commitment to the Police Athletic League (PAL), providing affordable educational and athletic opportunities to Tampa youth and exposing youth to a different side of law enforcement.
- Ward has enthusiastically supported the Resources in Community Hope or RICH House program, which provides an afterschool and summertime safe haven for residents in two of the city’s most challenged neighborhoods. Both sites have succeeded in helping officers develop a rapport with families by offering free enrichment activities and social services.
- Ward has raised funds for scholarships to deserving students to help them overcome financial obstacles when entering institutions of higher learning.
- When presented with a request for his department to participate in a national television reality show depicting officers patrolling the City at night, Chief Ward saw an opportunity to highlight officers’ human side and the courage they display on a nightly basis.
Training of the officers:
- TPD has provided training to the officers that mirror the current events around the country. These courses include; Discriminatory Profiling, Human Diversity, Fair and Impartial Policing, Autism Awareness, Dealing with the Mentally Ill, Americans with Disabilities and Encountering the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.
- TPD also opened its state of the art firearms training and tactics facility. The training at this facility provides the officers an opportunity to experience stressful situations that they may encounter on the streets of Tampa in a controlled environment.
Focus on violent crimes:
- Shortly after taking over the Violent Crimes Bureau was created. The goal of this bureau was to focus on that small percent of offenders that we preying of the citizens of Tampa. As a result of their efforts the city of Tampa was able to achieve a 16.5 percent citywide reduction in violent crime.
Assistant Chief Brian Dugan, who will serve as interim chief, has been with the Tampa Police Department since 1990. After serving as an officer, detective, sergeant, lieutenant, captain, and major, he became deputy chief of police in 2014. He has served as Assistant Chief since May 2015.