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Tampa police chief placed on leave after flashing badge during traffic stop

<i>Pinellas County Sheriff's Office</i><br/>Body camera footage taken from a traffic stop last month.
Pinellas County Sheriff's Office
Body camera footage taken from a traffic stop last month.

By Keith Allen, CNN

Tampa Police Chief Mary O’Connor has been placed on administrative leave after body camera footage taken from a traffic stop last month revealed she told a deputy she was “hoping that you’ll just let us go tonight” and flashed her badge.

O’Connor was a passenger in a golf cart, which was pulled over for driving on a roadway without a license plate tag, according to footage of the November 12 incident obtained by CNN from the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.

The chief was riding with her spouse in a residential area in Oldsmar, Florida, according to a statement released Thursday by the city of Tampa.

As the deputy explained why the couple was stopped, O’Connor asked if the deputy’s body camera was operating and then identified herself as the Tampa police chief.

“I’m hoping that you’ll just let us go tonight” O’Connor said before showing her badge to the deputy.

O’Connor apologized to the deputy and then gave him her business card. “If you ever need anything, call me. Seriously,” O’Connor said.

She and deputy thanked each other for their service and the couple was allowed to leave.

O’Connor apologized for the incident in the city statement released Thursday.

“It was poor judgment on our part to be driving a golf cart on a public roadway without the appropriate tags,” O’Connor said. “This was the first time we had exited the golf-cart friendly community in which we own property with this vehicle, prompting the need for a license plate.”

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

“We hold everyone accountable, no matter their position, and this behavior was unacceptable. Chief O’Connor will go through the due process and face appropriate discipline,” Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said in an accompanying statement Thursday.

On Friday, Mayor Castor announced O’Connor has been placed on administrative leave, pending the outcome of an investigation into the traffic stop. Assistant Chief Lee Bercaw will serve as acting police chief, Castor said.

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