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Finalists considered for Tampa Police Chief speak at community forum

A community forum introduced the three candidates in front of select members of the community.

TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa city leaders introduced the three finalists being considered for the position of Tampa Police Chief during a community forum on Wednesday evening.

Now-former Chief Brian Dugan announced his retirement in September 2021. Since then, Ruben "Butch" Delgado has served as interim chief. 

He, along with Miami Police Department Assistant Chief Cherise Giordani Gause and Mary O’Connor, TPD's former Chief of Operations, are up for the position.

A community forum was held at 6 p.m. on Wednesday. While not open to the public, a live stream of the event will be broadcast on the City of Tampa's Facebook page

Community members attending as guests of the forum include members of Tampa City Council, Mayor's Community Task Force on Policing, Citizens Review Board, Neighborhood Watch, Neighborhood Associations, Tampa Parks & Recreation Teens Leading Change and the Mayor's Youth Corps. 

Those invited to the community forum will be able to participate in the selection process, according to the city. 

During the forum, the candidates spoke on their policing strategies and philosophies, the city said. Unfortunately, Delgado was not able to attend the forum due to a family emergency, officials told 10 Tampa Bay.

The candidates were asked six questions and given two minutes to respond.

Topics included: Why the community should trust police, how candidates would handle the city of Tampa's growth, and plans for educating officers on prejudice, mental illness and appropriate use of force.

Both candidates at the forum said that trust can only be rebuilt with accountability and transparency.

"They need to have their concerns heard, and I said that during the presentation,” O’Connor said after the forum. “I want to have that open dialogue."

Gause also spoke on community connection saying some of her priorities are, “making sure that we are transparent in any and everything that we do within the police department. Secondly, is listening to the community. Listening to how they want to be policed."

The process for narrowing down the candidates has been kept pretty quiet, but Mayor Castor says she worked with national recruiter and former North Carolina Police Chief, Rodney Monroe, to narrow down the search. When asked, she said she didn’t know the exact number of candidates they’d considered before getting down to the final three.

Mayor Castor says she expects to make a decision in the next week, and then that candidate will go before council for approval.

Below is information about each of the three candidates, submitted by the finalists. 

RELATED: 'What a privilege': Chief Brian Dugan reflects on 30-year career in final week with department

Interim Chief Ruben "Butch" Delgado, Tampa Police Department

Credit: Tampa Police Department

Interim Chief Ruben “Butch” Delgado has served the citizens of Tampa in several capacities during his 23-year career with the Tampa Police Department. He has been operating as the Interim Chief of Police since October 1, 2021.

Prior to his role as Interim Chief, he was the Assistant Chief of Police overseeing police investigations and support services functions. Delgado is a strong leader who has worked in a variety of settings both in patrol and administration. He has served in all three patrol districts, the Support Services Division and the Criminal Investigations Division. During his assignment as Captain of Criminal Investigations, he played an instrumental role in investigating a serial murder case in Seminole Heights in 2017.

In late 2017, he was promoted to the Major of District One, where he previously served as a Captain of the District earlier in his career. Delgado effectively partnered with community members and businesses to reduce crime and enhance the department’s relationship with the community.

In 2019, he was promoted to Deputy Chief of Patrol Operations overseeing the three patrol districts of the department. In February of 2020, he was promoted to Assistant Chief of Investigations and Support. Throughout 2020 and into 2021, Delgado served as the lead role for the Public Safety planning efforts of Super Bowl LV in February 2021.

A Tampa native, Delgado graduated from Jefferson High School and holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Florida. Delgado also attended the Southern Police Institute, hosted by the University of Louisville, in 2016. In 2019, Delgado attended Tampa Bay Chamber’s Leadership Tampa program. Currently, Delgado is attending The Major Cities Chiefs Association’s prestigious Police Executive Leadership Institute. Delgado is married and has two children.

Assistant Chief Cherise Giordani Gause, Miami Police Department

Credit: Tampa Police Department

Assistant Chief Cherise Giordani Gause is a 28-year law enforcement veteran of the Miami Police Department. She began her career with the Miami Police Department in 1993 as a civilian dispatcher and has progressively ascended through the ranks. She was promoted to the rank of Assistant Chief of Police in September 2019 and currently leads the Field Operations Division.

Gause has held assignments in all three divisions of the department: Field Operations, Administration and Criminal Investigations respectively. She is passionate about public safety, community policing, constitutional policing and community engagement.

Gause earned a Master of Science degree in Organizational Leadership from Union Institute and University, a Bachelor of Public Administration degree from Barry University and an Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Miami-Dade College. She is also a graduate of the prestigious FBI National Academy, The Senior Management Institute for Police and the Command Officer Development Course from the Southern Police Institute (S.P.I.) in Louisville, Kentucky.

Gause has also received numerous leadership and community service awards, including, Legacy Magazine South Florida’s “50 Most Powerful Black Leaders in Business & Industry” 2020, Women of the Year N.Y.P.D. Haitian-American Law Enforcement Fraternal Organization 2019 and Legacy Magazine Miami’s “Most Influential and Prominent Black Women in Business and Industry” 2019.

She is a member of several professional organizations, including but not limited to, Miami-Dade County Association of Chiefs of Police, where she serves on the Police Reform Committee, National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), National Association of Women Law Enforcement Executives (NAWLEE) Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) and the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP).  She also demonstrates her civic advocacy through memberships with Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and Jack & Jill of America Inc.

Former Assistant Chief of Operations Mary O'Connor, Tampa Police Department

Credit: Tampa Police Department

Mary O’Connor dedicated the first 22 years of her career to serving Tampa and the people who call it home. She worked her way through the Tampa Police Department and retired as the Assistant Chief in 2016. She spent the next five years sharing lessons learned with agencies across the country through her work with the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI Law Enforcement Executive Development Association.

As a senior advisor with a leading law enforcement think tank, O’Connor helps police departments develop strategic plans for reducing crime by focusing on community engagement and evidence-based policing. O’Connor is also a senior faculty member of the FBI’s premier leadership training program that helps develop police officers into well-rounded leaders who understand the importance of diversity, collaboration, social equity and trust-building.

Her years of training have elevated O’Connor’s breadth of knowledge and experience. She is ready to bring innovative ideas back to Tampa where she discovered that law enforcement was her calling.

O’Connor is most proud of the positive impact she’s had on countless lives from community members to police officers. She created an after-school program in a disadvantaged neighborhood that helped hundreds of children thrive. O’Connor was also instrumental in the development of breakthrough technology that improved officer and community safety.

At TPD, O’Connor was known as a results-oriented, inclusive leader. She helped implement a progressive plan focused on smart policing and community partnerships that reduced crime and arrest rates by more than 70 percent. She’s ready to build on that success and once again serve the city she loves.

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