TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Police Chief Mary O'Connor has been placed on administrative leave after she and her spouse were pulled over while riding a golf cart without a license plate outside of a residential area.
Assistant Chief Lee Bercaw will serve as acting chief pending the outcome of an investigation into the traffic stop, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor tweeted on Friday.
The investigation is not expected to take longer than a week, a spokesperson from the mayor's office confirmed.
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 can be heard asking the deputy.
She 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. "If you ever need anything, call me."
Castor, who picked O'Connor to serve as the city's 43rd chief of police in March, called the behavior "unacceptable" and explained that the police chief "will go through the due process and face appropriate discipline" in an earlier statement.
O'Connor also reportedly requested to receive the same discipline any police officer would in this situation.
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."
The "past mistakes" O'Connor is referring are likely related to her 1995 arrest, which drew controversy when she was appointed as chief. She apologized for her actions while Tampa city council members considered a vote to confirm her earlier this year.
Tampa City Council member Bill Carlson said the situation hurts the city's reputation.
"I thought it was inappropriate," he said. "The first thing they teach us in ethics class is that you should never use your position to get anything...you should never talk about your title, you should never hand out your card like that.
"...I think it's embarrassing for the men and women that work hard every day to protect us and our community."
Another councilman expressed disappointment in what's going on with the police chief and the city.
"What I have seen so far is very disappointing and distressing," Councilman Luis Viera said in a statement. "This demands transparency with the Administration on all that happened and accountability if the investigation makes adverse findings.
"The detailed investigation should be as expeditious as possible so we can have a prompt resolution and move forward. Our police officers and the city they serve and protect deserve nothing less."