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Tampa police chief resigns after golf cart traffic stop

Mary O'Connor named new Tampa Police Chief
Posted at 12:07 PM, Dec 05, 2022

OLDSMAR, Fla. — Tampa Police Chief Mary O'Connor has resigned after an internal investigation found that she used her badge to get out of a traffic ticket last month.

On Monday, Mayor Jane Castor said in a news release that she requested and accepted the resignation of O'Connor, adding that Assistant Chief Lee Bercaw would serve as acting chief.

O'Connor's resignation comes after investigators from the department’s Professional Standards Bureau found during an internal review that she "compromised her and the City of Tampa's professionalism and ethics" when she was stopped by a Pinellas County Sheriff's deputy on Nov. 12, according to a disposition letter released along with the mayor's news release.

"The Tampa Police Department has a code of conduct that includes high standards for ethical and professional behavior that apply to every member of our police force," the mayor said in a statement. "As the Chief of Police, you are not only to abide by and enforce those standards but to also lead by example. That clearly did not happen in this case.”

O'Connor was stopped while riding in a golf cart with her husband. The incident was recorded on the Pinellas County Sheriff's deputy's body camera.

During the encounter, O'Connor asked the deputy if his camera was rolling before telling him she was the Tampa Police chief and showing the deputy her badge.

"I'm hoping you'll just let us go," O'Connor told the Pinellas County Sheriff's deputy.

O'Connor also gave her business card to the deputy, saying, "If you ever need anything, call me."

Read Mary O'Connor's full resignation letter below:

After the incident, O'Connor said in a statement that she understood how the incident could be viewed as "inappropriate, but that was certainly not my intent."

She added that it was “poor judgment” for the cart to be taken out on public roads without a tag.

"I have expressed great remorse to the mayor, and I apologize to the residents of Tampa who have a reasonable expectation of better judgment from the chief of police," O'Connor said.

The department said O'Connor "voluntarily reached out to the Tampa Police Professional Standards Bureau" and asked for the "same discipline that any officer would receive for similar conduct."

Castor said there is no deadline for when the next chief will be selected, but added that she expects a national search and the hiring process will take several months.

Rebekah Nelson at WFTS first reported this story.