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Eric Ward Resigns As Tampa Police Chief; Nationwide Search Begins

Steve Newborn
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn speaks in front of retiring Chief Eric Ward and Interim Chief Brian Dugan, right

Tampa is in the market for a new police chief as of Thursday, after Eric Ward submitted his resignation.  The city will now start a nationwide search for a successor.

Ward has been with the Tampa Police Department for 29 years, but was police chief for just over two of those years. By the end of the month, he'll be at his new job as head of security for Coca-Cola Food's Florida division.

"It wasn't an easy decision for me to make," he said during a news conference at police headquarters. "It's something that I didn't take very lightly. I spent 29 years of my life working for this agency, basically all of my adult career."

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said he'll be missed.

"For 29 years, he has served this city amazingly well, in virtually every capacity that you could imagine," he said. "And he has excelled in every one of those jobs, particularly in the job as chief of police."

Buckhorn said he will do a nationwide search for a new chief, and expects several of the applicants to be in-house.

Credit Steve Newborn / WUSF News
Outgoing Police Chief Eric Ward speaks at police headquarters, in front of Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Interim Chief Brian Dugan, right

"The next chief may be from the Tampa Police Department, but I feel I have an obligation to the community and to the department to make sure that we go find, or we go promote, the best talent that is out there - irrespective of where they come from, or what their background is," he said. "I am going to do a national search - that is not a reflection on the men and women behind me - but it is a desire to go out there and compete for the best. And to bring to this community - or to promote from within - the very best talent that we have that can now take this department to the next level."

One of the Ward's staff who says he's interested in the job is Assistant Chief Brian Dugan, who has been named as interim chief. during the search. Buckhorn said the search should take three to four months.

Ward has served as the department's Specialty Teams Commander overseeing K-9, Mounted Patrol, Traffic, Air Service, Marine Patrol, Dive Team, SWAT, Hostage Negotiation Team, Bomb Team, Honor Guard, and the Special Incident Management Unit.  Ward also served as the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's Region 4 SWAT Commander.

Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
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