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Tampa mayor speaks 1-on-1 with WFLA following police chief’s resignation

WFLA
WFLA
 2022-12-05

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TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Tampa police Chief Mary O’Connor resigned Monday, according to a release from the City of Tampa.

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor accepted O’Connor’s resignation Monday after an internal affairs investigation into a traffic stop involving the former chief.

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On Nov. 12, O’Connor and her husband were pulled over in Oldsmar for driving in a golf car without a license plate. Body cam video showed her tell 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.

This was not the first time O’Connor had been involved in a traffic-related incident during her time with the Tampa Police Department.

O’Connor was previously fired from the Tampa Police Department after she was arrested for battery on a law enforcement officer in 1995. However, she was reinstated the following year.

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.

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Castor called O’Connor’s behavior “unacceptable,” saying any public officials should not 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.”

Prior to O’Connor’s resignation, other local officials condemned the former chief’s actions.

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

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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 now 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.

At this time, it is not known exactly how long it will take to replace O’Connor, but Castor said she believes it will take several months.

“You have to narrow down the number of candidates you bring to the community and the entire city,” Castor said, “but we will hire a national search firm and do a very comprehensive search and then ensure that those candidates are presented to the community and the city council before a decision is made.”

When asked what significance the Chief’s resignation might have on her campaign for Tampa Mayor, Castor said it’s up to the voters to make those decisions.

“I don’t make decisions based on popularity, I make decisions based on right and wrong,” Castors told News Channel 8. “It’s very disappointing to me personally and for our community as well,” Castor added. “I gave Chief O’Connor a second chance and that’s really what makes this disappointment run so deep.”

8 On Your Side has reached out for a statement from the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office for comment on its deputy’s conduct.

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