Updated Dec 5, 2022 - Axios Tampa Bay

Tampa police chief resigns after release of traffic stop video

Mary O'Connor portrait.

Tampa police Chief Mary O'Connor. Photo: Courtesy of the city of Tampa

Tampa police Chief Mary O'Connor resigned Monday after Creative Loafing unearthed bodycam video of the chief showing her badge and asking for leniency when she and her husband were stopped driving their golf cart on a roadway in Oldsmar.

Driving the news: Tampa Mayor Jane Castor's office on Monday said she had requested and received O'Connor's resignation following an internal affairs investigation into the traffic stop.

  • “It is unacceptable for any public employee, and especially the city's top law enforcement leader, to ask for special treatment because of their position. Public trust in Tampa's police department is paramount to our success as a city and community,” Mayor Castor said in a statement.
  • O'Connor was placed on administrative leave late last week after the video was revealed.

Flashback: Weeks ago, Creative Loafing reporter Justin Garcia requested the video from the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office, acting on a tip.

  • The office sent Garcia the video Thursday. That same afternoon, O'Connor sent an apology email to her staff, writing, "I want you to hear it from me first prior to news stories circulating," Garcia reports.
  • "I'm hoping you'll just let us go," O'Connor told the Pinellas County sheriff's deputy, Larry Jacoby, on Nov. 12, per the video.
  • Jacoby let the couple go. His office has not said whether he will be disciplined.

What they're saying: "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. 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," Castor's statement continued.

  • "This is especially disappointing because I gave Mary O’Connor a second chance, as I believe in second chances for people. 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."

The big picture: The internal review by the department’s Professional Standards Bureau had found that O’Connor violated the department regulations on “standard of conduct” and “abuse of position or identification,” per to a letter released along with Castor’s announcement.

  • This is the second career-impacting traffic stop for O’Connor, who ran afoul of the law during a 1995 traffic stop, a point of contention during her hiring.
  • “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,” O’Connor wrote to Castor in her resignation letter.

What's next: Assistant Chief Lee Bercaw, who has been with the Tampa Police Department for 25 years, will serve as acting chief until a new one is found, which could take "several months," Castor's office said.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with new details throughout.

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