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Tampa’s police chief on administrative leave after flashing badge during golf cart stop

Body camera video from a sheriff’s deputy captured the Nov. 12 incident in Oldsmar.

The police chief of Tampa, Florida, was placed on administrative leave after she flashed her badge to get out of a stop for traveling in a golf cart without a license plate, the city's mayor said Friday.

Chief Mary O’Connor, who was appointed in February, has apologized for the Nov. 12 incident in Oldsmar, northwest of Tampa, which was captured on a Pinellas County sheriff’s deputy's body camera. The video was released Thursday.

O’Connor was a passenger in a golf cart driven by her husband that night, police said in a statement.

Tampa Police Chief Mary O’Connor in a golf cart driven by her husband in Oldsmar, northwest of Tampa, on Nov. 12.
Tampa Police Chief Mary O’Connor in a golf cart driven by her husband in Oldsmar, northwest of Tampa, on Nov. 12.Tampa PD via YouTube

The video shows O’Connor ask the deputy whether his body camera is on, and when he responds that it is, she says, “I’m the police chief in Tampa." The deputy asks how she’s doing.

“I’m doing good. I’m hoping that you’ll just let us go tonight,” O’Connor says as she opens her badge case and hands it to her husband, the video shows. The deputy lets them go.

The couple own property in a "golf-cart friendly community," O’Connor said in a statement Thursday. But vehicles outside of residential areas must have license plates.

She said in the statement that it was the first time they had left the community in the golf cart and that it was "poor judgment" to be driving it on a public roadway without appropriate tags.

O'Connor said she offered to pay any fine and apologized to the deputy. "I know that no one is above the law, including me,” she said in a statement.

Mayor Jane Castor said Thursday that O'Connor "has voluntarily reached out to the Tampa Police Professional Standards Bureau asking to receive the same discipline that any officer would receive for similar conduct" and that an internal review is underway.

Castor said Friday that the police chief would be on administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation.