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Tampa police chief resigns after golf cart incident

Mary O'Connor, the police chief of Tampa, Fla., has resigned following a stint on administrative leave after flashing her badge at a deputy who had stopped her while she and her husband were riding a golf cart. Photo courtesy Tampa Police Department
Mary O'Connor, the police chief of Tampa, Fla., has resigned following a stint on administrative leave after flashing her badge at a deputy who had stopped her while she and her husband were riding a golf cart. Photo courtesy Tampa Police Department

Dec. 5 (UPI) -- The police chief of Tampa, Fla., has resigned following a stint on administrative leave after flashing her badge at a deputy who had stopped her while she and her husband were riding a golf cart.

Police Chief Mary O'Connor resigned at the request of mayor Jane Castor, after an Internal Affairs investigation, the city confirmed in a statement on Monday.

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O'Connor and her husband were stopped last month after allegedly riding in a golf cart that did not have a license plate. Body camera footage released Thursday showed O'Connor flashing her badge to a Pinellas County sheriff's deputy and asking to "just let us go."

In the video, husband Keith O'Connor says the pair had stopped to get food at a nearby restaurant and that they don't usually drive the cart on public roads.

Mary O'Connor then asks the deputy if his camera is on, and he says it is.

"I'm the police chief in Tampa," O'Connor goes on to say, and then a moment later hands over her badge, adding, "I'm hoping you'll just let us go tonight."

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O'Connor later apologized.

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The now-former chief was placed on administrative leave on Saturday, pending the outcome of the investigation.

"The Tampa Police Department has a code of conduct that includes high standards for ethical and professional behavior that apply to every member of our police force. As the Chief of Police, you are not only to abide by and enforce those standards but to also lead by example. That clearly did not happen in this case," Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said in a statement.

"It is unacceptable for any public employee, and especially the city's top law enforcement leader, to ask for special treatment because of their position. Public trust in Tampa's police department is paramount to our success as a city and community."

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Assistant Chief Lee Bercaw, a 25-year veteran of the department, will serve as acting chief while the department conducts a national search for a permanent replacement.

"This is especially disappointing because I gave Mary O'Connor a second chance, as I believe in second chances for people. Which is one of the reasons that the disappointment today runs so deep. I had high hopes 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. But these accomplishments pale in comparison to the priority I place on integrity," Castor said.

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The second chance refers to an incident when O'Connor was a rookie police officer.

In 1995, O'Connor and her significant other were both arrested during a traffic stop, although it appears her record has been expunged, or erased by the courts. She was arrested for battery on a law enforcement officer but was reinstated the following year.

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