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Tampa Police Chief Mary O'Connor gives update on first 100 days in office

She said the department is moving "full-steam ahead" on the four main priorities she set when she was sworn in.

TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Police Chief Mary O'Connor celebrated her first 100 days in office by giving an update on what the department has accomplished under her leadership.

She spoke at the RICH House at Robles Park, a safe haven for children in one of the city's most economically challenged areas. According to a release from the department, O'Connor helped open the house in 2013 while serving as a police captain in East Tampa.

The chief focused on the progress of her four main priorities:

  • Working side-by-side with community members as a team
  • Reducing violent crime
  • Ensuring officers have a vigorous safety and wellness program
  • Operating in a transparent manner with a strong level of accountability 

"There is still work to be done but we’re moving full-steam ahead," she said.

She highlighted several new programs the Tampa Police Department has in the works, including the victim advocate program, the chaplain program to provide faith-based support and the mentor program to guide the next generation of officers. O'Connor also praised the new behavioral health unit, which she says has already helped reduce the number of Baker Acts.

The police chief mentioned two new policy changes she introduced in an effort to bring more accountability to the department. One is the improved pursuit policy that requires officers to get approval before continuing to chase a person down. According to O'Connor, this helps police weigh the need to apprehend vs. the risk to the public.

The second policy change involves body-worn camera protocols. Officers must now use the "sleep" feature on their cameras rather than completely powering down the devices during personal business. This helps officers avoid the one-minute delay in recording that happens whenever cameras are rebooted, O'Connor explained.

The police chief said she's working on doing more to incorporate the community in every initiative. 

"The old saying that the community are the eyes and ears of the police department rings true," she said.

O'Connor was clear in her passion for the job, adding "This is the best hundred days I've had in a very long time."

O'Connor said she's focusing on ways to reduce violent crime. She told 10 Tampa Bay the department needs the community's help to get information that can hold crime perpetrators accountable.

The department is holding its first annual event on Saturday as a call of action for the community to put guns down. It's dubbed the "Stop the Violence, Family Fun Day" event.

The chief said it's also working closely with ATF to improve the solvability of gun crimes using NESS, NIBIN Enforcement Support System. The department is also partnering with the State Attorney's Office and U.S. Attorney's Office with the goal of ensuring serious offenders face consequences.

O'Connor was sworn in as the city's 43rd chief of police in March after Mayor Jane Castor announced the hiring decision in February. However, the mayor's pick was met with backlash and controversy.

One reason is what critics have viewed as a lack of transparency in the hiring process. Some city council members complained that the public wasn't involved in the effort. 

The loudest backlash, however, came from an old arrest of the new chief — O'Connor (Minter, at the time). She was arrested in May 1995 for battery on a law enforcement officer. O'Connor was a new officer with the Tampa Police Department back then.

According to the police department, O'Connor spent the first 22 years of her career in law enforcement serving Tampa communities. She rose through the ranks, becoming an assistant chief before retiring in 2016.

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