TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Tampa Police Chief Mary O’Connor has been placed on administrative leave after she and her husband were pulled over for driving a golf cart without a license plate tag last month.
Mayor Jane Castor released a statement on Friday saying Chief O’Connor will be on administrative leave until further notice, pending the outcome of an investigation into the incident.
Assistant Chief Lee Bercaw will serve as acting Chief in the meantime, Castor said.
Chief O’Connor and her husband were stopped by a Pinellas County deputy outside of an Oldsmar neighborhood on Nov. 12. O’Connor was captured on body camera video asking if the deputy’s camera was on and flashing her badge to the deputy before saying, “I’m hoping you’ll just let us go tonight.”
Tampa City Councilman Bill Carlson said this is a violation of basic ethics training.
“When we’re taught ethics training in government, ethics 101, is don’t use your position to get any kind of special favors. You’re taught in particular not to mention your title or your position to try and convince anyone of any thing and so it’s not a good idea to do that,” said Carlson.
He said he believes O’Connor should – and will – resign.
“I imagine that the police chief will resign from this. I don’t know, but I imagine. It’s embarrassing for her, it’s embarrassing for the mayor,” said Carlson.
Yvette Lewis, the President of the NAACP of Hillsborough County, was opposed to O’Connor’s hiring as police chief and says this incident shows she was given special treatment that others would not receive.
“Had that been an African American person, let’s say that, that person would have been handcuffed, sat on the side of the road, frisked and held there and taken to jail,” said Lewis who also believes O’Connor should not return as police chief.
“The suspension was the right step and honestly, I don’t think she should be allowed to come back to hold that position,” said Lewis.
Tampa City Councilman Joe Citro is calling for a full investigation into the incident involving O’Connor.
“There should be accountability for all. I’ve always backed the Tampa Police Department and I will continue to do so, but if an officer or the chief of police does something that is questionable, anything that is questionable, there should be an investigation,” said O’Connor.
Late Friday, the Tampa Police department issued a statement on the situation, saying: “In light of Mayor Castor’s decision to place Chief Mary O’Connor on leave as the Professional Standards Bureau completes its review of an off-duty traffic stop, the department will continue operating with Assistant Chief Lee Bercaw serving as Acting Chief of Police. We have full confidence that all members of the Tampa Police Department will continue with their duties to serve the citizens of Tampa with the highest level of professionalism. The findings of the internal review will be made available upon completion.”
O’Connor has served as Chief of the Tampa Police Department since February 2022.
Note: This story has been updated to correct the reason why the Pinellas County deputy stopped the golf cart.