WATCH: Bodycam footage shows Tampa Police Chief Mary O'Connor evading traffic stop

Tampa Police Chief Mary O
Tampa Police Chief Mary O'Connor on administrative leave for flashing badge at a traffic stop, (Image via P J Lopez/Twitter)

Tampa Police Chief Mary O'Connor has been placed on administrative leave after bodycam footage was released on Thursday showing her flashing her badge during a traffic stop near an Oldsmar neighborhood.

O’Connor and her husband were seen driving an unlicensed golf cart when they were stopped by a deputy. She later flashed her badge and mentioned that she was the police chief in Tampa and hoped that the deputy would let them go.


The incident happened on Saturday, November 12, 2022. Mayor Jane Castor confirmed that Mary O'Connor has been placed on administrative leave, and the outcome depends on the current investigation into the incident.

O’Connor was made Tampa’s police chief in February 2022, and has been in law enforcement for 22 years.

Tampa Police Chief Mary O'Connor placed on administrative leave until investigation outcome arrives

On November 12, Mary O'Connor and her husband Keith were driving a golf cart with no license plate when they were stopped by Deputy Larry Jacoby of Pinellas County.

In the video of the traffic stop, O'Connor can be seen asking the deputy if his bodycam was recording, to which the deputy replied that it was. She then flashed her law enforcement badge and said,

“I’m the police chief in Tampa. I’m hoping you’ll just let us go tonight.”

Officer Larry then asked the couple if they resided in East Lake Woodlands, to which the couple replied that they do. The video shows the couple and the officer exchanging pleasantries.

Offering her deputy card to the officer, Police Chief Mary O'Connor said,

“If you ever need anything, call me. Seriously.”

The deputy who pulled them over let them go without issuing a ticket, and was recorded saying,

“It’s nice meeting you.”

Mary O'Connor mentioned that the whole incident was a result of her "poor judgment" and realized that she had not handled the situation well.

Speaking on the incident, Mayor Jane Castor said that O’Connor’s behavior was “unacceptable” and that she will be facing “appropriate discipline.”

“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.”

Castor further added,

“Chief O’Connor has voluntarily reached out to the Tampa Police Professional Standards Bureau asking to receive the same discipline that any officer would receive for similar conduct.”

Mary’s husband, Keith, said that they had just gone to get some food at a nearby joint, and they drive golf carts only in golf-friendly areas and not on public streets.

O’Connor publicly apologized for her actions

O’Connor issued a public apology regarding her actions. In the statement, she said,

“In hindsight, I realize how my handling of this matter could be viewed as inappropriate, but that was certainly not my intent … I have personally called the Pinellas County sheriff, offering to pay for any potential citation. 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.”

According to Yvette Lewis, president of the Hillsborough County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Mary O'Connor should not be allowed to join her duties as police chief at all. She said,

“Had that been an African American person… that person would have been handcuffed, sat on the side of the road, frisked and held there, and taken to jail. The suspension was the right step and honestly, I don’t think she should be allowed to come back to hold that position.”

Lewis further said,

“You see how (law enforcement) look after each other and turn a blind eye, but they come to the community and say, if you see someone committing a crime, say something. But if it’s in your law-enforcement family, they don’t see and say something. They see something and close their mouths and walk away.”

It was reported that Creative Loafing Tampa Bay received a tip regarding this footage weeks ago and had also asked the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office for the same.

Public information officer Crystal Clark mentioned that O’Connor had supposedly voluntarily revealed the incident to the mayor. The police chief reportedly issued a public statement as well to maintain transparency. Clark has also said that how and when Mayor Jane Castor came to know about it is part of the internal investigation.

On Friday, December 2, 2022, council members voted for the administrative leave of Mary O'Connor, and that the whole scene should be thoroughly investigated well. Council member Bill Carlson, who voted against Mary O'Connor, said through a text message to the Tampa Bay Times,

“Castor needs to bring civility, ethics, transparency, and accountability back to City Hall... We need to listen to feedback from the community. The hard-working men and women of our police force deserve quality leadership that will help them do their job.”

While many condemned O’Connor’s actions, few supported her and referred to the whole incident as a mistake or something “unfortunate.”

Tampa restaurateur Richard Gonzmart mentioned that Mary O'Connor is a good human and that she had just committed a mistake. Former police chief Brian Higgins believed that O’Connor made poor judgment, however, she did not commit a violation as such.

The incident is currently under investigation, and O’Connor’s service depends very much on the outcome. Assistant Chief Lee Bercaw will be serving as the acting chief.

Quick Links

Edited by Somava