To Protect and Serve

A key homicide advisor who brought Ted Bundy to trial, professor, researcher and police officer, Leonard Territo has written the book on criminal justice.



By Mary Beth Erskine


TAMPA, Fla. (Feb 17, 2010) – From Andy Griffith and Joe Friday to Leroy Jethro Gibbs and Horatio Caine, television cops have captivated viewers for decades, undoubtedly leading many people to careers in criminal justice. For Leonard Territo growing up in the 1950s in a blue collar area of Manhattan, however, it was the cops-on-the-beat, held in high esteem by the people in the neighborhoods they patrolled, who provided inspiration.


“As a boy, I was fascinated with police work,” says the 72-year-old USF professor emeritus. That fascination has led to a more than 50-year career in criminal justice during which Territo has made extraordinary contributions to academia, law enforcement and society through teaching, training, research and active duty.


“Lenny has impacted more people in law enforcement in this area in the past 50 years than anyone else,” says longtime colleague in the USF Criminology Department and Associate Professor of Criminology Max Bromley. “On a national scale, the number of lives he has affected in the field of criminal justice just boggles the mind.”


Those lives include: undergraduate students he taught during 27 years at USF.


Graduate degree candidates he has mentored, including current White House Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske.


Police officers he has trained at the police academy.


College students nationwide who have used his best-selling textbooks.


Private citizens he has helped as a patrol officer, motorcycle officer, homicide, rape and robbery detective and internal affairs detective.


Criminals he has brought to justice, including infamous serial killer Ted Bundy.


And students and police professionals he continues to teach and train as a distinguished visiting professor at Saint Leo University.


According to Bromley, Territo’s incredible success and devotion to criminal justice is due to a simple yet profound fact. “Lenny doesn’t see his job as a ‘job.’ It’s a labor of love – he loves helping people.”


From the Streets of Ybor to the Classroom


That labor of love began in 1959 on the streets of Tampa’s Ybor City where Territo made his entrée into law enforcement as a patrol officer. It was a vastly different time when cops took to the streets by foot and used call boxes to reach headquarters when they needed the paddy wagon to pick up a suspect.


“It was also a time when I could count on one hand the number of police officers with four-year degrees,” says Territo. A USF alum and member of the university’s charter class – student number 1,923 – Territo was one of those few. Attending classes while he worked for the Tampa Police Department, he received his bachelor’s degree in 1968. In turn, that degree opened a door for him that he had never anticipated – a door into the world of academia.


He had been with the Tampa Police Department for nine years as a line officer and detective and had experience in every division from traffic to homicide and rape to robbery. “I was teaching homicide investigation at the department,” he says, “and one day, we heard that St. Pete Junior College, which at the time had the best reputation anywhere for police training, had a closetful of files they were cleaning out. A buddy and I decided to go over and raid the closet for training materials. While we were there, I happened to overhear a conversation about the college’s need to hire a new instructor for the Department of Police Administration.”


Territo was intrigued by the prospect of teaching – and the opportunity to double his salary. Later that day, when he headed back across Tampa Bay, he had a new position.


“Being in the right place, at the right time, with the right set of circumstances changed my life and took me in a whole new direction,” he says.


Putting Bundy Behind Bars: “The Smell of Evil”


It wouldn’t be the first time fate would steer the course of Territo’s career. After six years as instructor, department chair, and director of the Florida Institute for Law Enforcement at St. Petersburg Junior College, he returned to USF in Tampa to teach. Two years later, in 1976, he and a friend, Ken Katsaris who was a criminology department chair at Tallahassee Community College at the time, decided that they would both run for sheriff, Katsaris in Leon County and Territo in Hillsborough.


“The plan was that whoever won would hire the other guy. Well, you can tell how my election went because I ended up working for him,” he says with a smile.


Territo made good on his end of the deal and headed to the Panhandle to serve first as a major and then as chief deputy (undersheriff) with the Leon County Sheriff’s Office. He was second-in-command, and the most experienced homicide investigator in the office, at the time Ted Bundy was being investigated for the Chi Omega murders on the Florida State University campus.


A major advisor to the investigation, Territo says the case broke new ground in investigative technique. “It was the first time bite mark evidence on a body had ever been used in a conviction,” he says. And while that was the single piece of evidence that earned investigators the conviction, Territo vividly recalls why he personally knew Bundy was guilty.


He could smell it.


Territo was one of just a few officials in the interrogation room when the forensic dental expert came in to take impressions of Bundy’s teeth that would be matched against those on the victim. “The moment Bundy realized that there was no way out of it, he started sweating. I was standing right next to him, and I started to smell a strong, pungent aroma unlike anything I had ever smelled before.


“It truly was the smell of evil.”


Returning to Research


Missing the university life, Territo left Leon County and returned to USF two years later to teach and to resume an activity he had grown to love: research and writing.


During his career, Territo has co-authored several leading books, including Criminal Investigation, which is in its 10th edition, and Police Administration: Structures, Processes, and Behavior, in its 7th edition. Considered the most comprehensive texts available, these books have been adopted by more than 1,000 colleges and universities in all 50 states. In addition to police departments throughout the United States, his texts are used in 16 countries, with Criminal Investigation most recently published for use in China.


One of Territo’s newest books, International Sex Trafficking of Women and Children: Understanding the Global Epidemic, is an example of another occasion when he says he was in the right place, at the right time.


He was in the local video store looking for a movie when Human Trafficking, a Donald Sutherland and Mira Sorvino film, caught his eye. He took it home and found it to be a “mesmerizing movie,” prompting him to delve deeper into the subject. “I found that I wanted to do something about this international tragedy,” he says.


So Territo started digging, identifying hundreds of disparate articles and papers on the causes of human trafficking, which he edited into a single volume for use by academicians and law enforcement practitioners. Today he uses both the book and the film that initiated his scholarly interest in his classes. “I show the film to students not to intentionally shock them,” he says, “but to provide them with inspiration. I believe in applied research – research that benefits society” – which is why this summer he will be leading a summer institute at St. Leo University on the subject for students and law enforcement professionals.


Territo’s latest endeavor, however, takes him down yet another new path. He has co-authored a mystery titled Ivory Tower Cop with fellow criminologist and professor emeritus at Florida State University George Kirkham. Based on actual police efforts to capture a dangerous and elusive sexual predator, Territo’s first venture into crime thrillers was an opportunity for him to add his technical expertise to his collaborator’s creative writing efforts.


“It was a lot of fun to do, plus it’s been getting great reviews,” he laughs.


“Lenny has this insatiable curiosity,” says Bromley, “which is why he’s always trying something new or investigating a new topic. The same people skills and work ethic that made him a great police administrator have made him a great faculty member.”


“I do have an insatiable curiosity,” agrees Territo adding that in addition to working on a second crime novel, he also is researching another new subject – the international sale of human organs – and is working on an edited volume that addresses the subject from multidisciplinary viewpoints.


During the limited downtime that Territo’s active life allows him, he feeds that ravenous curiosity by choosing the Discovery and History Channels – even over police shows.


“The majority of them really are well done,” he admits.


It’s just that, as when he was a boy, he still prefers to find his inspiration in real life.




Photos by Joseph Gamble  and courtesy Leonard Territo


The University of South Florida is one of the nation's top 63 public research universities and one of only 25 public research universities nationwide with very high research activity that is designated as community engaged by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.  USF was awarded $380.4 million in research contracts and grants in FY 2008/2009. The university offers 232 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral levels, including the doctor of medicine. The USF System has a $1.8 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and serves more than 47,000 students on institutions/campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland. USF is a member of the Big East Athletic Conference.