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Tampa Police Chief Resigns After Caught Flashing Her Badge and Sense of Entitlement During Traffic Stop, Asking Cop if He Knew Who She Is

by Jo Ellen Nott

On November 12, 2022, the former police chief of Tampa, Florida, and her husband decided to ride out in their golf cart to pick up a take-out meal in their affluent suburb of Oldsmar, located on Tampa Bay.  It was a decision Mary O’Connor would come to regret.   

Body camera video released on December 1 shows Pinellas Sheriff’s Deputy Larry Jacoby pulling over O’Connor and her husband, Keith, on November 12, 2022, near East Lake Woodlands, a gated community in Oldsmar.  Jacoby noted they were driving an unregistered vehicle on the road.  The lack of a license plate on the golf cart was minor compared to what Mary O’Connor did next: she asked Jacoby if he knew who she was, flashed her badge, and requested he let them go.  

The body camera footage showed the deputy explaining that driving a golf cart on a roadway without a tag is a violation of local traffic laws.  O’Connor then asked Jacoby “is your body camera on?” before identifying herself as the police chief in Tampa, handing over her badge and adding, “I’m hoping you’ll just let us go tonight.” At the end of the traffic stop, O’Connor apologized, giving her business card to Jacoby, and saying, “if you ever need anything, call me. Seriously. I appreciate you.”

It took O’Connor 18 days to notify Tampa Mayor Mary Jane Castor about the incident. Her hand was forced by a local independent newspaper asking for the body cam footage.  When Castor saw the video, she immediately ordered an internal affairs investigation.  Castor then asked for and received a resignation from O’Connor on December 5, 2022.

In a press release from her office about the incident, Castor wrote “It is unacceptable for any public employee, and especially the city’s top law enforcement leader, to ask for special treatment because of their position.”

Mayor Castor had hired O’Connor just 10 months before the incident despite pushback from the community.  O’Connor was arrested during a traffic stop three decades ago as a rookie officer.  She pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges after striking a deputy, kicking the windows of the police vehicle, and disrupting officers from conducting a sobriety test on her boyfriend. 

O’Connor was fired from the police force for the incident in 1995 but later reinstated.  She worked her way up through the ranks, becoming Police Chief earlier this year.  Castor mentioned in the press release that her disappointment over O’Connor's behavior was deepened by Castor’s belief in second chances.

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