Tampa police chief who showed badge during golf cart traffic stop placed on leave

TAMPA, Fla. — A Florida police chief flashed her badge after she and her husband were pulled over by a deputy in a neighboring county while riding a golf cart without a license plate outside of a residential area last month, authorities said.

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According to a body camera video released by the Tampa Police Department on Thursday, Tampa police Chief Mary O’Connor identified herself as the city’s top officer, pulled out her badge and said to a Pinellas County sheriff’s deputy that “I’m hoping you’ll just let us go tonight,” WFLA-TV reported.

Update 1:28 p.m. EST Dec. 2: Tampa police Chief Mary O’Connor was placed on administrative leave on Friday by Mayor Jane Castor, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

In a statement Friday afternoon, Castor said that O’Connor was placed on leave “pending the outcome of an investigation into a recent traffic stop.

Assistant Chief Lee Bercaw will serve as the city’s acting chief, Castor said in her statement.

O’Connor has been the chief of the Tampa Police Department since February 2022, WFLA-TV reported.

Original report: The video was first reported by Creative Loafing Tampa Bay. According to a news release by the Tampa Police Department, O’Connor and her husband, Keith O’Connor, were pulled over by Pinellas County Sheriff’s Deputy Larry Jacoby in the parking lot of a Truist Bank in Oldsmar on Nov. 12, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

Jacoby asked the couple if they lived in the East Lake Woodlands area of Oldsmar and they answered in the affirmative, according to the newspaper.

According to the news release, Mary O’Connor then asked Jacoby if his body camera video was recording, and the deputy said it was, WFLA reported.

O’Connor then stated, “I’m the police chief from Tampa,” and showed Jacoby her badge. “I’m hoping you’ll just let us go tonight.”

As the video continues, Jacoby said he believed he recognized O’Connor and let the couple go after shaking the chief’s hand, according to WTVT.

Near the end of the exchange, O’Connor hands the deputy a card and tells him, “If you ever need anything call me --serious.”

”Oh, all right, appreciate that,” Jacoby answers.

”Have a good night,” O’Connor said.

O’Connor could not be reached for comment, but the Tampa Police Department released a statement from the chief expressing remorse, adding that she apologized to Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, the Times reported.

“In hindsight, I realize how my handling of this matter could be viewed as inappropriate, but that was certainly not my intent,” O’Connor said. “I knew my conversation was on video, and my motive was not to put the deputy in an uncomfortable position. I have personally called the Pinellas County sheriff offering to pay for any potential citation.”

Castor also could not be reached for comment Thursday, but the news release included a statement from the mayor, WTSP-TV reported.

“We hold everyone accountable, no matter their position, and this behavior was unacceptable,” Castor said. “Chief O’Connor will go through the due process and face appropriate discipline.”

Driving a vehicle on a roadway without a license tag is a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine, according to Creative Loafing.

Keith O’Connor was not cited, the Times reported.

Jacoby’s actions are not under review, Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Amanda Sinni, told the newspaper.

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