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Tampa police chief placed on leave amid investigation into traffic stop

Dec. 2, 2022 Updated Fri., Dec. 2, 2022 at 12:06 p.m.

A screenshot from video recorded by a Pinellas deputy's body camera on Nov. 12, 2022, shows Tampa police Chief Mary O'Connor and her husband, Keith, during a traffic stop. O'Connor identified herself as chief, pulled out her badge and asked the deputy to "just let us go" when told they'd been pulled over for not having a tag on the golf cart while he was driving on a public road.    (Tampa Police Department/TNS/TNS)
A screenshot from video recorded by a Pinellas deputy's body camera on Nov. 12, 2022, shows Tampa police Chief Mary O'Connor and her husband, Keith, during a traffic stop. O'Connor identified herself as chief, pulled out her badge and asked the deputy to "just let us go" when told they'd been pulled over for not having a tag on the golf cart while he was driving on a public road.   (Tampa Police Department/TNS/TNS)
By Tony Marrero Tampa Bay Times

TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Mayor Jane Castor placed police Chief Mary O’Connor on administrative leave on Friday as the city investigates a traffic stop O’Connor was involved in last month in Pinellas County.

Body camera video released Thursday shows O’Connor identifying herself to a Pinellas sheriff’s deputy as Tampa’s chief, pulling out her badge and asking the deputy to “just let us go” after she and her husband were pulled over in a golf cart in Oldsmar on Nov. 12. The deputy, who pulled over the O’Connors’ cart because it did not have a license plate, let them go without a citation.

“Police Chief Mary O’Connor has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation into a recent traffic stop,” Castor said in a statement released Friday afternoon.

The statement said Assistant Chief Lee Bercaw is serving as acting chief.

In a statement Thursday, Castor called O’Connor’s behavior “unacceptable” and said she would face “appropriate discipline.”

In the video, Deputy Larry Jacoby asks if they live in East Lake Woodlands and the couple confirms they do.

“Well, it’s nice to meet you. I’m Deputy Jacoby,” he says.

He and O’Connor shake hands as she responds, “Same here, my friend. Take care of yourself. Sorry to bother you.”

“No worries,” the deputy replies before adding, “We have a lot of problems with the golf carting around here.”

The couple tells him they don’t usually come out, but they went to a Greek restaurant to get some takeout food.

She then hands over what appears to be her business card, telling the deputy, “You ever need anything, call me.”

O’Connor’s husband, Keith, was not cited for not having a tag on the golf cart while he was driving on a public road.

Thursday’s news release from the police department includes a statement from O’Connor in which she says she has apologized to Mayor Jane Castor and wants to apologize to residents.

“In hindsight, I realize how my handling of this matter could be viewed as inappropriate, but that was certainly not my intent,” O’Connor said. “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.”

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