Tampa police chief pulls out badge, asks deputy to ‘let us go’ during traffic stop

Tampa Police Chief Mary O’Connor Identifying herself as the chief, pulling out her badge, she asked a Pinellas sheriff’s deputy to “let us go” after she and her husband were pulled away in a golf cart last month, video shared Thursday by the Tampa Police Department shows.

In a video captured on the deputy’s body camera during a Nov. 12 traffic stop in Oldsmar, the deputy immediately let them go as they exchanged pleasantries.

He asks if they live in East Lake Woodlands, and the couple confirms they do.

“Well, nice to meet you. I am Deputy Jacoby,” he says.

He and O’Connor shook hands as she replied, “Same here, friend. Be safe. Sorry to disturb you.

“Don’t worry,” replied the deputy before adding, “We’ve got plenty of problems here with golf carting.”

The couple tells him they don’t usually go out, but they went to a Greek restaurant and took out food.

She then hands over what appears to be her business card and tells the deputy, “Anytime you need anything, call me.”

O’Connor’s husband, Keith, was cited for not having tags on the golf cart while driving on a public road.

This incident was first reported by Creative Loafing Tampa Bay.

O’Connor could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.

A news release from the police department includes a statement from O’Connor, in which she apologized to Mayor Jane Caster and said she wanted to apologize to residents.

“In retrospect, I realize how I handled this matter may have been viewed as inappropriate, but that was certainly not my intention,” O’Connor said. “I knew my conversation was on video and it was my intention not to embarrass the deputy. I personally called the Pinellas County Sheriff and offered to pay for any possible citations.

Castor could not be reached for comment Thursday, but the news release included a statement in which he said: “We hold everyone accountable, regardless of their position, and this behavior is unacceptable. Chief O’Connor will undergo due process and face appropriate discipline.”

According to the release, O’Connor contacted the Tampa Police Bureau of Professional Standards and “asked that he receive the same discipline any officer would receive for similar conduct.”

The police department said an internal investigation is currently underway.

According to Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Amanda Chinney, the Pinellas deputy is not under review for the incident.

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O’Connor’s conduct — and subsequent arrest — during another traffic stop more than three decades ago when he was a rookie Tampa officer, and his appointment as chief, became a source of controversy.

In 1995, O’Connor was with her then-boyfriend Keith O’Connor, also a Tampa police officer. Pulled over by a Hillsborough Sheriff’s deputy. Mary O’Connor, then known as Mary Minter, repeatedly interrupted deputies trying to give Keith O’Connor a sobriety test and was asked to sit in the patrol car to remain calm, according to released reports and personnel records.

She kicked the windows and punched a deputy in the shoulder and chest. Deputies arrested Keith O’Connor on charges of driving while intoxicated and Minter on charges of battery on a law enforcement officer, obstruction and disorderly intoxication. He pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges of battery and obstruction. A judge withheld judgment.

Both officers were suspended, then fired, but later reinstated. Both worked their way up to the top positions in the department. Keith O’Connor retired as assistant chief in 2019 and is now the city’s neighborhood development manager.

O’Connor said he was an immature person who made a terrible decision and then took a second chance at a law enforcement career. He said the experience helped him as a police officer and gave him a valuable perspective that will help him as the head of the department.

Tampa City Council member Bill Carlson told the Tampa Bay Times in a statement, “This proves that Goodes and I were right to challenge this nomination, and that Castor should have listened to the public rather than bully and attack the council.” For this vote.”

Goodes declined to comment until after reading the story.

Randy Nelson, a police expert and professor at Bethune-Cookman University, reviewed the footage posted on the Tampa Police Department’s YouTube channel at the request of the Times.. With the current political climate and declining trust in the police, it is critical for law enforcement officials to show leadership, he said.

“Integrity is key,” he said. “Whether you block me or a politician, the public should feel that they will be treated the same.”

Times staff writers Chris Tish, Tony Marrero, Natalie Weber, Charlie Frago and Matt Cohen contributed to this report.

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