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'I'm hoping that you'll just let us go': Tampa police chief caught riding golf cart without plate

In a statement, Chief Mary O'Connor said it was the first time the couple exited the golf cart-friendly community.

TAMPA, Fla — Tampa Police Chief Mary O'Connor was placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation into the traffic stop, Mayor Jane Castor tweeted on Friday. 

Assistant Chief Lee Bercaw will serve as acting chief. 

The previous story is below.


Tampa Police Department Chief Mary O'Connor and her spouse were pulled over by a Pinellas County deputy while riding a golf cart without a license plate outside of a residential area last month.

The encounter, captured on body camera and distributed to the media on Thursday, shows O'Connor and her husband on the night of Nov. 12 pulled over in the parking lot of a Truist bank in Oldsmar, the Tampa Police Department said in a news release.

"Is your camera on?" O'Connor asked after the deputy explained why he was conducting the traffic stop.

She immediately let the deputy know she was the police chief in Tampa before showing the deputy her credentials. 

"I'm hoping that you'll just let us go tonight," she added. 

The deputy, who said she did look familiar, let her know that there's a golf cart issue in the area as far as people driving golf carts outside of residential areas, which is against the law without a license plate.

"If you ever need anything, call me," O'Connor said before the deputy dismissed the couple. 

O'Connor issued a statement following the release of the body camera video: 

"It was poor judgment on our part to be driving a golf cart on a public roadway without the appropriate tags," she said in the statement. "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. 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. 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."

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said in a statement that the city holds everyone accountable, "no matter their position."

"This behavior was unacceptable," Castor said in the statement. "Chief O'Connor will go through the due process and face appropriate discipline."

The Tampa Police Department says O'Connor requested to take the appropriate steps to receive the same discipline any other police officer would receive. 

Earlier this year, Castor picked O'Connor to serve as top cop — and O'Connor was sworn in as Tampa's 43rd chief of police in March following a city council vote to confirm her. There was some controversy and skepticism about the selection, with some council members having concerns about O'Connor's arrest in 1995.

She was a passenger in a car that was spotted weaving and hitting the median on Bearss Avenue in Tampa. Upon being stopped, a Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office spokesperson at the time said O'Connor — who went by Mary Minter and was a Tampa Police Department officer at the time — was "highly intoxicated" and "very belligerent." 

She was charged with battery on a law enforcement officer, among other charges.

O'Connor apologized for her actions and, as recently in her latest statement, said she recognizes her mistakes and has learned from them.

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