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UP chief’s recognition a first for University community

The University’s chief of police became an officer of a local police association Thursday – a first in USF’s history.

University Police Chief Thomas Longo was named vice president of the Tampa Bay Area Chiefs of Police Association (TBCPA) and was honored alongside Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who was credited for his charitable work with area police.

Longo is the first UP chief to serve as VP of the association, which is made up of sheriffs and police chiefs from six counties, representing a total of 48 Florida law enforcement agencies. Though TBCPA’s members are chiefs of police, the association advocates on behalf of all 4,800 law enforcement officers employed by the agencies it represents.

Steinbrenner was awarded the first TBCPA Lifetime Achievement Award for his support of the organization and of the Gold Shield Foundation, which provides scholarship moneys to children of slain police officers.

As vice president, Longo will evaluate and vote on issues that come before the board. He is also being groomed to take over as president in 2009, when the current president’s tenure will expire.

“The biggest positive about this is that it puts USF out there,” said Longo. “It’s good for the University and it’s good for alums – for them to see USF out there.”

Many of the police chiefs who belong to TBCPA are USF alumni, and many have children attending USF, he said. Longo also said his position as vice president will bring some tangible benefits, most notably networking, to USFPD.

UP officers were excited about Longo being named vice president, and the attention that it will bring to the department.

“It’s quite prestigious for the department, and likewise for USF, to have our chief elevated to this position in the 12th largest media market in the nation,” said UP Operations Commander Captain Bob Staehle. “It shows what esteem our department is held with by other agencies in the Tampa Bay area.”

Staehle said he was pleased that TBCPA “recognized the professionalism and multi-faceted law enforcement experience that Chief Longo brings to USFPD.”

Longo has been chief of police at USF for 19 months. He finds the job rewarding, saying that it allows him to “be a part of something that is growing and getting better.” The most challenging aspect of his job as chief, Longo said, is the lack of resources.

“A lot of that is a matter of timing – I came on right when budget cuts were brewing,” he said.

Although UP and USF are at an impasse in their drawn-out contract negotiations, Longo has cause for hope going into the new year.

“I’m optimistic because I have seen that the University is focusing more on what we do,” he said. “I think the new Public Safety Division is a testament to that. I’m hopeful that we can resolve some issues that have been challenging to us and move forward.”

In addition to his work with TBCPA, Longo is also a member of the Board of Directors of Hillsborough County DUI CounterAttack, and a member of the Advisory Board of Students Taking Action Not Drugs. Longo is also a voting member of the Public Safety Coordinating Council and serves as chair of the Florida University Police Association – which represents all 11 police departments in the State University System.

As for the future, Longo’s plans are simply “continued public service.” He wants UP to be recognized for the work it does for USF, saying: “We want to be a jewel in the crown of the University.”