Tampa police chief resigns after traffic stop investigation

Crime

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Tampa Police Chief Mary O’Connor has resigned after an internal affairs investigation into a traffic stop, according to a release from the city.

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor accepted O’Connor’s resignation Monday.

On Nov. 12, O’Connor and her husband were pulled over in Oldsmar, Florida, for driving in a golf cart without a license plate. Body camera video showed her telling Deputy Larry Jacoby that she was Tampa’s police chief while flashing her badge.

“I’m hoping you’ll just let us go tonight,” she was heard saying before handing him her card.

In O’Connor’s resignation letter, the former police chief said she was resigning to preserve the public’s trust in the police department.

“I would never want my personal mistake to stand in the way of the progress I have made in mending relationships between the police department and the community, so for that reason, I am resigning,” she said.

Castor called O’Connor’s behavior “unacceptable,” saying no public official should use their position to ask for special treatment.

“This is especially disappointing because I gave Mary O’Connor a second chance, as I believe in second chances for people,” the mayor said. “Which is one of the reasons that the disappointment today runs so deep. I had high hope for Chief O’Connor, as she was off to such a strong start by reducing violent gun crime, proactively engaging with our community and focusing on officer wellness. But these accomplishments pale in comparison to the priority I place on integrity.”

As a rookie, O’Connor was arrested on May 26, 1995, and charged with battery on a law enforcement officer during a traffic stop. She was fired from the force a month later but was “reinstated as a police officer” the following year.

Prior to O’Connor’s resignation, other local officials condemned her actions.

“It’s embarrassing for her; it’s embarrassing for the mayor,” City Councilman Bill Carlson said.

The Tampa Police Department also released a statement saying it was committed to serving its community despite the recent controversy:

The Tampa Police Department does not want the resignation of Chief Mary O’Connor to [distract] from the skilled work and professionalism provided to our community everyday. We want our community to know that our dedication to protecting our residents and building relationships [with] those we serve will continue through the nearly 1,400 dedicated public servants of #YourTampaPD.

The Tampa Police Department

Assistant Chief Lee Bercaw will serve as acting chief while the city searches for candidates nationwide.

Bercaw is a 25-year veteran of the Tampa Police Department and has been part of developing crime reduction strategies to make Tampa safer, according to the city.

Castor said she believes it could take several months to replace O’Connor.

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