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Tampa police chief placed on leave after flashing badge during traffic stop

A Florida police chief has been placed on administrative leave after she flashed her badge when she was pulled over during a traffic stop.

Tampa Police Chief Mary O’Connor and her husband were driving a golf cart without a license plate in Oldsmar, Fla, nearly 20 miles outside of Tampa, when Pinellas County stopped the couple.

After confirming that the officer’s body-worn camera was recording, O’Connor pulls out her badge.

“I’m the police chief of Tampa,” O’Connor said through a smirk. “I’m hoping that you’ll just let us go tonight.”

“You look familiar,” the deputy responded before letting the couple drive away.

“If you ever need anything, call me,” O’Connor said as she handed the officer a card. “Serious. Thank you.”

In a statement released Friday, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor announced O’Connor has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation of the traffic stop.

O’Connor has also expressed remorse for her actions, calling the incident a result of “poor judgment,” and that she has personally reached out and offered to pay any potential citation.

O’Connor’s husband (right) explained to the officer that they were driving the cart on a public road to go get food.

O'Connor has since expressed remorse for her choice to use her badge during a traffic stop.
O’Connor has since expressed remorse for her choice to use her badge during a traffic stop.

“It was poor judgment on our part to be driving a golf cart on a public roadway without the appropriate tags,” O’Connor said.

“This was the first time we had exited the golf-cart friendly community in which we own property with this vehicle, prompting the need for a license plate. In hindsight, I realize how my handling of this matter could be viewed as inappropriate, but that was certainly not my intent.”

O’Connor was named Tampa’s police chief in February and has served in law enforcement for 22 years.

Mary O'Connor
O’Connor has been placed on administrative leave while the incident is investigated.
Tampa Police Department

“I knew my conversation was on video, and my motive was not to put the deputy in an uncomfortable position,” O’Connor said. “I have personally called the Pinellas County Sheriff offering to pay for any potential citation.”

“I have expressed great remorse to the mayor, and I apologize to the residents of Tampa who have a reasonable expectation of better judgment from their chief of police. 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.”

Assistant Chief Lee Bercaw has stepped in as acting chief in Tampa during the investigation.

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