Florida Police Chief Resigns After Traffic Stop Controversy

Tampa Police Chief Mary O'Connor, who resigned after showing an officer her badge to avoid a ticket.

Tampa Police Chief Mary O’Connor, who resigned after showing an officer her badge to avoid a ticket.

A Florida police chief who was driving a golf cart without a license plate was pulled over by a colleague last month and flashed her license plate to avoid a ticket. A few weeks later, she was asked to resign from her position.

Tampa Police Chief Mary O’Connor, 52, resigned Monday following the Nov. 12 traffic stop in Pinellas County. Body camera footage released Thursday shows O’Connor in a golf cart with her husband, Keith O’Connor, asking an officer to let them go.

“I’m the Tampa police chief,” O’Connor told the officer before handing him her badge. “I hope he lets us go tonight.”

He then gave the agent his business card and told him if he “needed anything to call her”. The officer, who stopped the golf cart because it did not have a license plate while on a public road, let them go without a ticket.

O’Connor did not notify Tampa Mayor Jane Castor of the traffic stop until Wednesday, more than two weeks after the incident, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Shortly after, Castor saw the footage and ordered an internal affairs investigation.

On Friday, Castor announced that O’Connor was on administrative leave. In a statement released Monday, Castor said he had asked O’Connor to resignnoting that it is unacceptable for an official to ask for special treatment because of his position.

The internal affairs office found that O’Connor violated the department’s “standard of conduct” and “abuse of position or identification.”

“The Tampa Police Department has a code of conduct that includes high standards of ethical and professional behavior that apply to all members of our police force,” Castor said in his statement. “As Police Chief, you must not only follow and enforce those rules, but also lead by example. That clearly did not happen in this case.”

O’Connor told the captain conducting the internal review that asking to be released without a ticket had been a mistake. However, she insisted that she identified herself as a police officer for “security”.

In her statement, Castor said she was disappointed in O’Connor because she had already given him a second chance more than 25 years ago.

According to Tampa Bay Timesthe second opportunity Castor was referring to related to O’Connor’s behavior and arrest during a traffic stop in 1995.

Decades earlier, O’Connor was pulled over by a Hillsborough police officer with her then-boyfriend Keith O’Connor, who was a Tampa police officer. According to Tampa Bay TimesO’Connor interrupted officers attempting to breathalyze Keith O’Connor, kicked the police car windows, and struck an officer in the shoulder and chest.

Officers arrested Keith O’Connor for drunk driving and O’Connor for assault on a police officer, obstruction and disorderly conduct. He pleaded not guilty to assault and obstruction charges, but the judge did not enter a sentence.

Both officers were fired but later reinstated, their arrests having little impact on their ability to rise through the ranks.

Keith O’Connor retired in 2019 as deputy chief and now serves as Tampa’s neighborhood improvement manager, according to Tampa Bay Times.

In its resignation letter, O’Connor, who became police chief in February with a salary of more than $190,000, said she is leaving the department “with great sadness.”

“I promised that I would serve the community I love to the best of my ability, as I did for 22 years prior to my retirement, and I feel that I have done so,” O’Connor said in the letter.

This story was originally published on December 6, 2022 12:14 p.m.

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