The police chief of the Tampa Bay, Florida, Police Department handed in her resignation on December 5 after she flashed her badge and asked to be let go from a traffic stop.
“Tampa Mayor Jane Castor has requested and received the resignation of Police Chief Mary O’Connor, following the completion of an Internal Affairs investigation into a recent traffic stop involving O’Connor,” the mayor’s office wrote.
O’Connor, who sworn in as chief in March, was put on administrative leave after the incident was captured on body camera on November 12.
The footage showed the chief and her husband being pulled over for driving a golf cart on a public road without a license plate tag.
During the interaction, O’Connor asked the Pinellas County deputy conducting the stop if his body camera was on and then revealed who she was. She then apologized and asked the deputy if he could let them go.
“If you ever need anything, call me. Seriously,” O’Connor added before giving the deputy her business card. The deputy then let her go after thanking her for her service.
In her resignation letter, O’Connor said she “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.”
Castor condemned the chief for violating the police department’s code of ethics and abusing her position of power.
“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 said.
“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,” Castor added. “Public trust in Tampa’s police department is paramount to our success as a city and community.”
O’Connor had served with the department for 22 years before being promoted to assistant chief in 2016. She retired from the department in 2016 to work with a police chaplain in a post-trauma training and retreat program for officers struggling with PTSD. O’Connor also helped launch the Resources in Community Hope House program and worked as an instructor for the FBI’s Law Enforcement Executive Development Association.
In 2022, O’Connor was selected for the job of police chief.
The mayor praised O’Connor for “reducing violent gun crime, proactively engaging with our community and focusing on officer wellness,” but was disappointed by the latest incident.
“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,” Castor said.
“I had high hope for Chief O’Connor,” Castor continued. “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.”
Castor said she expects the search and selection process for O’Connor’s replacement to take several months. In the meantime, Assistant Police Chief Lee Bercaw will lead the department as interim chief.
“We have a thoughtful and highly regarded leader in progressive policing,” Castor said of Bercaw. “I am grateful he can hit the ground running and continue working with our community to keep our city safe.”
“Officers know their integrity and ethics, and what happened here is a constant reminder of the professionalism and ethics they have to maintain,” Bercaw commented after signing the final disposition for O’Connor’s leave.