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Tampa Florida police chief Mary O’Connor resigns over traffic stop incident


The chief of the Tampa Police Department has resigned after the release of a body-cam video showing the chief flashing her badge to get out of a traffic violation on a golf cart.

Mary O’Connor resigned Monday after being asked to leave by Tampa Mayor Jane Castor. That move followed an internal investigation that found she violated department policy and “compromised her and the city of Tampa’s professionalism and ethics by using her position of authority.”

A Pinellas County sheriff’s deputy stopped O’Connor and her husband on the golf cart about 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 12 after seeing that they were driving without a tag. The video, first published by Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, shows the deputy’s point of view: The grinning O’Connors sitting in their cart flying a red Tampa Bay Buccaneers flag on suburban roads flanked by a McDonald’s and a dermatology office.

The traffic stop lasted less than 90 seconds. Body-cam footage of the incident begins with the officer still in his marked vehicle radioing in a golf cart without a tag.

O’Connor is seen in the passenger’s seat as the deputy approaches her and her husband Keith O’Connor, who also served as a Tampa police officer and currently directs the city’s Neighborhood Enhancement Division, in the driver’s seat. The deputy introduces himself and explains why he has stopped them.

As her husband begins to explain where they were, Mary O’Connor cuts in.

“Is your camera on?” she asks.

“It is,” the deputy, identified in the internal affairs report as Deputy Jacoby, responds.

“I’m the police chief in Tampa,” she says, stretching her smile into a flat grimace.

“Oh, how ya doing?” he says.

“I’m doing good,” she says.

“I’m hoping that you’ll just let us go tonight,” she says.

“Ah, okay, yeah,” Jacoby says as O’Connor hands her police badge to her husband. “Now that you say that, you look familiar.”

“Yeah, I’m sure I do,” she says, maintaining eye contact with the deputy.

“Okay, well, all right folks. Have a good night,” the deputy says.

The three exchange pleasantries and small talk for a moment, and Mary O’Connor hands Jacoby a business card.

“If you ever need anything, call me,” she says, looking at Jacoby. “Serious.”

They shake hands again, with her saying “thank you for your service” and him responding “thank you for yours.”

Jacoby wishes them a good night before getting back in his marked vehicle and driving off with the business card in his hand.

“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,” said Castor, Tampa’s first-term mayor who previously served as the city’s police chief, the first woman to do so.

O’Connor wrote in her resignation letter that she was leaving “with great sadness.”

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

O’Connor became chief in February, according to a cached version of the Tampa police website.

“This is especially disappointing because I gave Mary O’Connor a second chance, as I believe in second chances for people,” Castor wrote. “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 mayor was referring to a 1995 incident involving O’Connor and her husband Keith, who was her boyfriend at the time. The two were pulled over because he was suspected of drunken driving, according to a St. Petersburg Times story. After becoming belligerent, the Times reported, O’Connor was put in the back of a patrol car where “she kicked the windows and punched a deputy in the chest and shoulder when he tried to calm her down. Six deputies responded to the scene.”

They both were suspended, fired and then reinstated, the Times recently reported. O’Connor has called it an immature and terrible decision.

In her resignation letter, O’Connor wrote that she was proud to have been chosen as chief “against all odds” and was “eternally grateful” to Castor and the people of Tampa for their faith in her.

Assistant Chief Lee Bercaw will serve as acting chief while the department conducts a national search.

Tampa is the third biggest city in Florida, behind only Jacksonville and Miami. The broader Tampa metro area is home to more than 3 million people.