Tampa’s Appointed Police Chief Still Waiting For City Approval

by: Mahsa Saeidi

Posted: / Updated:

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Controversy continues to dog Tampa’s top cop.

Mayor Jane Castor tapped Mary O’Connor for the position last month, yet she’s still awaiting confirmation from the city council.  So, who is technically in charge of the Tampa Bay area’s largest police department?

O’Connor is facing backlash over her past. In the 1990s, she was charged with battery on a cop.

Late Tuesday, 8 On Your Side obtained and verified a picture of O’Connor wearing a “defund the media” shirt. Her office says it was just a joke but the city council isn’t laughing.

Here’s the full statement from a spokeswoman from Tampa PD:

“This was a personal photo, and the t-shirt was a joke. The media plays a crucial role in our democracy and I have the utmost respect for journalism.”

Chief O’Connor did not give 8 On Your Side permission to release the photo.

O’Connor has not been confirmed by the city council to run the Tampa Police Department. And yet — she’s already doing it.

On Monday, O’Connor led a community forum on gun violence.

“How would you get my department to get people to pick up the phone and call us,” said O’Connor.

Mayor Jane Castor handpicked O’Connor to be Tampa’s police chief. Last month, the mayor said she didn’t expect any confirmation issues.

“While we had three very skilled candidates as finalists for the position of police chief, Mary stood out,” said Mayor Castor.

But soon, it became clear, for some O’Connor was standing out for the wrong reasons.

Although she served more than two decades at TPD, rising to the rank of assistant chief; early in her career, O’Connor was charged with battery on a law enforcement officer after a traffic stop.

“Constituents are calling, they’re saying there was no transparency in this selection,” said Council Member Joseph Citro on Feb. 17.

Some council members have questioned the mayor’s choice, unhappy that O’Connor has been running TPD without council confirmation. So is this allowed? The mayor’s spokesman says yes but 8 On Your Sid checked the city’s charter and it states O’Connor must go before councilmembers within 90 days of her appointment.

To be confirmed, she needs 4 of 7 members to vote yes. So that means the city has until May 9, to put O’Connor before the council. 8 On Your Side has been told it could happen as early as this Thursday.

Once she goes before the council, another clock starts. The council must vote for or against O’Connor within 15 days. If they don’t vote, O’Connor automatically becomes the new chief.

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