Known as a “quiet force,” Eric Ward ’13 was named the Tampa Police Department chief on April 30. Ward, who grew up in the Belmont Heights area of East Tampa, has served in almost every area of the Tampa Police Department. His work with the department exemplifies Saint Leo University’s core value of community.
Ward, who earned his Bachelor of Arts in criminal justice, is known for reaching out to those in Tampa. One of his main goals as chief is to make sure the community and law enforcement have a good bond. To that end, Ward often visits Grady Elementary, where his wife is a teacher, as well as Tampa PAL (Police Athletic League). He remembers that Belmont Heights Little League and Tampa PAL played a role in his life from a young age, and it is where he learned that most police officers are “good.” Those officers provided him with skills and knowledge to be successful.
“You have to interact with kids at an early age,” Ward said in a City of Tampa video. “The sooner we can interact with them, the better it is for law enforcement and the community.”
The Tampa police chief saw tensions between law enforcement and his East Tampa community when he was growing up. So when he was 21, he decided to join the police force “to make a difference from within.” He explains, “It was a lifelong goal to become a police officer, but I did not envision myself as being the chief.”
While he was a TPD officer, Ward began taking classes at University Campus, at the MacDill Education Office, and online. “I knew that Saint Leo had a highly regarded criminal justice program, and that many of my colleagues have benefitted greatly from the classes,” he said.
He faced the trials of many adult learners. “Time management was a challenge,” Ward said. “It takes a tremendous amount of discipline for a full-time police officer—with a family—to devote the appropriate time to classwork.”
His favorite memories of his time as a Saint Leo student? “I especially enjoyed networking with colleagues in law enforcement and in the military.”
On the city website, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said his selection of a new police chief was one of the most important appointments a mayor can make. “Within the department, Eric is known as a quiet force, and his methodical demeanor and certitude will serve him, the department, and our city.”
Ward will take the skills he learned at Saint Leo and his 27 years with the Tampa Police Department and use them to serve the Tampa Bay area.
“As a police officer—and now as chief—I recognize that I have a tremendous opportunity to accomplish things for this city and this community,” Ward said. “I welcome that opportunity, as well as the challenges that go with it. My favorite part is being in the community and seeing where we have made a difference, or where we can make a difference.”