Tampa Mayor Castor, Police Chief O'Connor Visit White House

WASHINGTON — Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and Police Chief Mary O’Connor made their way to the White House Friday afternoon. 

What You Need To Know

  • Tampa officials met with President Biden to discuss the rise of violent crime nationwide

  • Tampa has a number of programs that are being funded using COVID relief money

  • Biden has stated that he believes that police should have funding to do their jobs

They were there with other local officials from across the country to talk about the rise in violent crime, and the availability of federal money to fight it.  

With violent crime a top concern among many Americans, President Joe Biden invited mayors and police chiefs from around the country to the White House on Friday. Biden said the government should be spending money from last year’s massive COVID relief bill on public safety right now. 

The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan was signed into law last year —Tampa received $80 million in funding from it.

Unlike some Democrats who have called to defund the police, Biden has rejected that stance. 

“We all agreed from the outset that the answer is not to defund the police,” Biden said during the event. “The answer is to fund the police with resources and training that they need to protect our communities.” 

White House officials said the federal money helped Tampa avoid $10 million worth of cutbacks, and pay for police body cameras and vehicles. 

“We were able to clearly not have to reduce the number of first responders we have, and then benefit in providing vehicles for our first responders to reduce response times out in the community, use some of that funding towards the the new mental health program that the Tampa Police Department has put in action and many other areas,” said Castor. 

A total of $13 million will also go to Tampa Fire and Rescue for vehicles, staffing and station renovations.

Tampa is considered one of the safest large cities in the nation, and while overall crime is down, some violent crime, like aggravated assaults, has increased.

Castor said the city has been able to create a behavioral health unit where a police officer is paired with a clinician to go out and provide prevention and intervention services.

There are other plans in the works as well.

“I’m working very closely with our chaplaincy and our clergy to spread the message to our youth that gun violence is not the answer,” O’Connor said. “We’re also creating a victim advocacy program where we want to work with crime victims to make them feel comfortable with the system so that they know what to expect and they feel comfortable cooperating with investigations, so we can get the most violent criminals off the street.”

Castor and O’Connor also said they were interested in meeting with other local leaders at the gathering to share ideas and best practices. 

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