The former Tampa police chief has resigned from her post after a video emerged showing her abusing her power as a member of law enforcement. The resignation comes after the city launched an investigation into her flashing her badge at a deputy, in a different county, with the hopes of getting out of a traffic ticket.
On Friday, Dec. 2, Tampa mayor Jane Castor placed Tampa Police Department chief Mary O’Connor on leave until an investigation into a golf cart incident in Oldsmar, Florida (outside of her governance) on Nov. 12 could be completed. After being placed on administrative leave, according to WFLA, O’Connor submitted her resignation.
The Pinellas County sheriff’s deputy flagged the vehicle for not having tags. In an effort to get her husband, who was driving out of a traffic ticket, the chief flashed her badge at a local officer.
On the footage, O’Connor asks, “Is your camera on? I’m the police chief in Tampa,” before pulling out her brass. She then states, “I’m hoping that you’ll just let us go tonight.”
The deputy immediately says “Alright folks, have a good night” before granting O’Connor the professional courtesy and withholds the ticket.
However, the deputy breaks into small talk with the couple. Before the end of their interaction, the chief hands the deputy her card. “If you ever need anything, call me … serious,” she says. They close with a few more, “it’s nice meeting you.”
Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, the top cop in Pinellas County, defended his deputy’s action, saying, “Deputy Larry Jacoby did absolutely nothing wrong. I stand by him 110%.
“The person who did wrong is Mary O’Connor,” the sheriff added at an unrelated press conference, WFLA-TV reports. “It’s had its consequences,” he added. “The mayor has acted. Tampa is handling that — that’s their business.”
Gualtieri continued, “While she asked for a favor, he didn’t give her a favor. He handled that as he would have handled any other like situation and any other like traffic stop. People think that just because you got stopped by the cops that you’re going to get a traffic ticket, and that is absolutely not the case.”
He said the chief made it worse for herself by flexing her badge and did it for no reason.
“Think about what this is. It’s a golf cart. They’re about 100 yards from the gated community. The only reason why they popped out was because the restaurant they were trying to go to within the gated community was closed so they went across the street,” he said. “Who cares? The outcome would not have been any different if she had just kept her mouth shut. Unless it was aggravating circumstances or extenuating circumstances, that’s a warning all day long.”
He concluded, “Now that doesn’t mean anything other than what she did is unethical. It’s wrong. She shouldn’t have said it, she shouldn’t have done it, none of that should have happened.”
O’Connor, saying she used “poor judgment,” has since made a public statement.
“It was poor judgment on our part to be driving a golf cart on a public roadway without the appropriate tags,” she said in the remarks on the city’s website.
“This was the first time we had exited the golf-cart friendly community in which we own property with this vehicle, prompting the need for a license plate. In hindsight, I realize how my handling of this matter could be viewed as inappropriate, but that was certainly not my intent. I knew my conversation was on video, and my motive was not to put the deputy in an uncomfortable position. I have personally called the Pinellas County Sheriff offering to pay for any potential citation.”
The chief said she has also reached out to Castor to apologize.
“As someone who has dealt with, taken ownership of, and grown from my past mistakes, I know that no one is above the law, including me,” she said.
O’Connor has voluntarily contacted the Tampa Police Professional Standards Bureau requesting she is treated like all other officers who demonstrate the same lapse of judgment, noting she will accept whatever discipline is appropriate after all the facts are reviewed.
The mayor said in a statement, “We hold everyone accountable, no matter their position, and this behavior was unacceptable. Chief O’Connor will go through the due process and face appropriate discipline.”