TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Less than one year ago, selecting Tampa’s top cop was a contentious process. Now, with former Chief Mary O’Connor gone, how will the process change?
8 On Your Side is getting answers from Tampa Mayor Jane Castor about changes coming to the process of selecting a new police chief.
Mary O’Connor tried to get out of a ticket but ended up out of a job. It’s day two of the search to find Tampa’s next top cop. Mayor Castor calls it the most important job in the city.
“We’re looking for the best without a doubt,” Mayor Castor said.
In January, we reported on how the mayor selected O’Connor, who had an arrest in her past.
There was one forum to introduce the finalists. The event was closed to the public, upsetting some.
Meanwhile, several Tampa council members had another issue. O’Connor started the job at the Tampa Police Department (TPD) before she was confirmed by the council. The Tampa city charter allows it but several council members are calling for change.
Now that the process is starting again, 8 On Your Side wanted to know what’ll be different.
“Will there be a forum with the finalists and can you commit to that being open to the public?” asked 8 On Your Side Investigator Mahsa Saeidi.
“Yes, and that particular forum clearly didn’t go as wide as the community may have expected but we invited organizations from around the city,” Castor said. “We felt at that time that it was very inclusive but we will have more than one forum and it will be where the community can come out and interact with the candidates.”
“Will you be looking for candidates alone or will there be a selection committee?” Saeidi asked.
“The last for Chief O’Connor, we utilized a retired police chief that had been in a number of police chief searches and so now we will probably hire out a firm which the two firms that are the most respected are PERF or IACP.”
“Will you consider someone with a blemished past again or are you done with that?” asked Saeidi.
“No, I would never close the door on.. possibilities,” said Mayor Castor. “We’ll do a nationwide search that’s very exhaustive and very inclusive.”
So, what changes do council members want to see?
The topic came up during a meeting last week. Councilman Orlando Gudes wants the mayor to nominate candidates, and council to appoint them. They don’t start the job until they get the votes.
“When a policy is not right, we fix the policy,” Gudes said during the city council meeting.
Mayor Castor said O’Connor was off to a good start but she places priority on integrity.
“She’s improved morale at the city of Tampa, reduced gun violence,” said Mayor Castor.
“You think she improved the morale of the police department during her tenure here?” Saeidi asked.
“Yes, the officers’ self-initiated activity at the department has increased, and as I stated the violent gun crime has reduced, more guns off of the street, put in place officer wellness initiatives,” said the mayor.
Next month, the city council will vote on the proposed changes to the process. If they approve it, the voters will have the ultimate say during the city’s election in March.
If you have a story tip, email Investigator Mahsa Saeidi at MSaeidi@WFLA.com.