O'Connor optimistic about tough confirmation battle

Tampa's new police chief is facing a tough confirmation fight as concerns come in from city councilors and constituents.

Former assistant chief Mary O'Connor was named to the post last week by Mayor Jane Castor, who worked alongside her for over a decade.

Snippets of her early career were even caught on the show COPS.

In 1995, then-officer O'Connor was a year into her job with Tampa Police Department when two officers were shot as she was nearby.

"A couple of minutes feels like a couple of hours in a situation like that," she said during an interview on Wednesday. "You know you can't lose your brother or sister."

She won the department's lifesaving award for helping to slow the bleeding until rescuers could get there.

"They both lived. They both came back. The suspect was captured."

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She is in a much different kind of fight today, a week after Mayor Jane Castor elevated her - pending council approval - to the department's top job.

She has heard the critiques that former acting chief Ruben Delgado, a son of Tampa's west side Hispanic community, was passed over, along with those who are disappointed an African-American wasn't selected.

"We need to do what we say we are going to do," stated O'Connor, of the department's efforts to reach out to city residents. "If I say we are going to get out there and meet with the community and have greater community engagement, they need to see that."

Several councilors told Fox 13 on background they aren't sure she can win four of seven votes.

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"Any no vote is someone I would work very closely with to try to change it to a yes even though it wouldn't be at the time," explained O'Connor. "I feel very strongly about positive relationships."

The coming days will be filled with meetings to persuade councilors like Chairman Orlando Gudes, who says he's also concerned about a separate incident that happened the same year she helped save the officers' lives. She pleaded no contest to battery of an officer during an off-duty traffic stop.

"You look at people who are incarcerated on that charge, and don't get a second chance on that kind of charge," said Gudes. "I do believe in second chances. We need to hear what Ms. O'Connor has to say in front of the whole body of the council."

She says she, "rebounded" from that, "dark moment," and that she welcomes questions about her entire career, in which she was also awarded for convincing a carjacking suspect to give himself up.

"I hope that they can take the time to see that my intention is to serve, and not for any other motive than to come back, serve the department well, serve the city well, and know I am committed to the cause."

It is unclear as to when this will be put on the council calendar.

Council has three months to weigh in on this appointment.