WUSF Public Media – WUSF 89.7 | By Mark Schreiner
Published March 25, 2022 at 3:14 PM EDT
Mary O’Connor has been sworn in as the 43rd Chief of the Tampa Police Department.
At a ceremony Friday at Julian B. Lane Park, O’Connor said one of her primary goals as chief will be to reduce crime through community engagement.
“Together we will identify the root causes of crime and then partner with our social service partners to address those causes,” she said. “We will prioritize the health and wellness of our officers and our community with the most robust wellness and safety program in the nation.
“We will achieve the goals of crime reduction, community engagement and wellness for all through a high level of accountability, togetherness and hard work. I care deeply about the city and all of you that call it home.”
O’Connor, 51, is the second woman to serve as chief — the first was Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, who picked her for the job and spoke at the ceremony.
“I, more than most in this community, understand the incredible weight of the star she wears on her collar, the often crushing responsibility of keeping our city safe and ensuring that every officer goes home safely at the end of their shift,” said Castor. “Mary O’Connor is that strong leader who will successfully guide the Tampa Police Department into the future and keep our community safe.”
O’Connor, who has been performing the duties of chief since being selected by Castor last month, was approved by the Tampa City Council last week in a 6-2 vote following a tumultuous process.
Questions were initially raised about her background when she was named as one of the three finalists for the job. O’Connor had been fired from the department in 1996 — her first year with TPD — following an arrest after her future husband was stopped for drunken driving.
O’Connor kicked the windows of a patrol car and punched a deputy. She pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges of battery and obstruction. She was fired, then later reinstated.
O’Connor ended up working for the department for 22 years before retiring as assistant chief in 2016.
In addition, members of Tampa’s Black and Hispanic communities were not in favor of O’Connor.
Representatives of Tampa’s Black community voiced concerns both before and after the Council vote over O’Connor serving with the department while it was disproportionately stopping Black bicyclists.
In 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a report that said, while police did not intentionally profile by race, their actions did not reduce crime or bike theft.
Some members of the Hispanic community were not happy that Interim Chief Ruben “Butch” Delgado, a West Tampa native who was also a finalist for the position, was not selected.
Delgado will remain with the department as assistant chief.
Since retiring from the department, O’Connor has spent the last five years as a law enforcement trainer and consultant, as well as a senior faculty member with FBI National Academy Associates, an FBI officer development program.
O’Connor succeeds Brian Dugan, who retired in September.
WUSF staff writer Steve Newborn contributed to this report.