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TAMPA, Fla. – Tampa Mayor Jane Castor announced Friday that she has chosen interim Tampa Police Chief Lee Bercaw as the city’s permanent chief.
“It’s a career I’ve been doing for the last 27 years,” Chief Bercaw said during a Friday morning press conference. “The only thing that will change
Bercaw said his goal was “to enhance community policing” and that the “community wants to feel safe.
“It’s feeling safe,” Bercaw said. “It’s not just low crime stats. It’s how you feel in the community.”
Bercaw’s words echoed those spoken shortly before by Mayor Castor.
“We cannot be successful if our city is not safe and not perceived as safe by our community,” Castor said earlier in the press conference.
The city had been looking for a permanent chief since the previous chief, Mary O’Connor, resigned in December 2022.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor requested and received the resignation of Police Chief Mary O’Connor, following the completion of an Internal Affairs investigation into a recent traffic stop involving O’Connor.
“The Tampa Police Department has a code of conduct that includes high standards for ethical and professional behavior that apply to every member of our police force. As the Chief of Police, you are not only to abide by and enforce those standards but to also lead by example. That clearly did not happen in this case.”
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“It is unacceptable for any public employee, especially the city’s top law enforcement leader, to ask for special treatment because of their position. Public trust in Tampa’s police department is paramount to our success as a city and community,” Mayor Castor said in Decemeber.
On the evening of November 12, 2022, Chief O’Connor and her spouse were stopped by a Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office deputy while riding in a golf cart without a license plate outside of a residential area in Oldsmar.
The incident was recorded on the Pinellas SO deputy’s body-worn camera.
During the stop by Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Jacoby, O’Connor identified herself verbally and, with her police badge in hand, said, “I am hoping you will let us go tonight.”
She handed Pinellas County Deputy Jacoby a business card and added, “If you ever need anything, call me – serious.”
“It was poor judgment on our part to be driving a golf cart on a public roadway without the appropriate tags. 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,” said Tampa Police Chief O’Connor at the time.
Castor added, “This is especially disappointing because I gave Mary O’Connor a second chance, as I believe in second chances for people. Which is one of the reasons that the disappointment today runs so deep. I had high hope for Chief O’Connor, as she was off to such a strong start by reducing violent gun crime, proactively engaging with our community and focusing on officer wellness. But these accomplishments pale in comparison to the priority I place on integrity.”
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