Tampa Police Chief Resigns After Flashing Her Badge During Golf Cart Traffic Stop: ‘Just Let Us Go’

The chief of police in Tampa, Fla., has resigned after she tried to use her authority to get excused during a traffic stop last month.

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor announced Monday that Police Chief Mary O’Connor had submitted her resignation following an investigation by internal affairs into the incident on Nov. 12.

O’Connor’s spouse was driving a golf cart on a public road without a license plate that evening when they were pulled over by a Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office deputy in Oldsmar, according to a Dec. 1 press release from Tampa Police Department (TPD).

Bodycam footage shared Thursday on TPD’s YouTube page shows O’Connor trying to hand the deputy her badge after asking if his camera was on.

“I’m the police chief in Tampa,” she says, before adding: “I’m hoping you’ll just let us go tonight.”

O’Connor also gave the deputy a business card and told him, “If you need anything, call me — serious,” according to an internal affairs document detailing the incident. The deputy eventually let them off with a verbal warning.

On Nov. 30 — nearly three weeks later — O’Connor informed the mayor of the incident, the document said. She later claimed in an interview that she shared her identity with the deputy “for safety” but admitted it was wrong to request that deputy not issue a ticket.

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Castor called it “unacceptable” for a public employee such as O’Connor, who served as the city’s top law enforcement officer, to seek special treatment “because of their position.”

In her Dec. 1 statement, O’Connor admitted that she used “poor judgment” during the Nov. 12 incident. “In hindsight,” she added, “I realize how my handling of this matter could be viewed as inappropriate, but that was certainly not my intent.”

“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,” O’Connor said, per the press release.

Castor called O’Connor’s actions “especially disappointing” considering she had given the now-former police chief “a second chance”

In 1995, O’Connor was fired from the department during her first year on the force after she was arrested for battery and obstruction during a traffic stop for drunk driving involving her future husband, according to The Tampa Bay Times. She was rehired later that year.

“I had high hope for Chief O’Connor, as she was off to such a strong start by reducing violent gun crime, proactively engaging with our community and focusing on officer wellness,” Castor said on Monday. “But these accomplishments pale in comparison to the priority I place on integrity.”

O’Connor said she “personally” contacted the Pinellas County Sheriff and offered to “pay for any potential citation,” according to TPD’s Dec. 1 press release.

Assistant Chief Lee Bercaw, a 25-year veteran of the department, will serve as acting chief while the city searches for a replacement, according to the press release, which called Bercaw “a thoughtful and highly regarded leader in progressive policing.”

The mayor has no deadline for hiring a new chief, and the city “fully expects” that the process “will take several months” to complete.