Tampa Police Chief Mary O'Connor lays out 4 goals for TPD
TAMPA, Fla. - Tampa's new police chief, Mary O'Connor was sworn into office just a few days ago.
While she worked at the Tampa Police Department for many years, O’Connor most recently spent time outside the department, consulting, training, and working with a law enforcement think tank.
Her appointment was one of the most contentious in the history of the department, but now she’s one of three female leaders in one of the few major US cities with women at the top of their respective ranks.
The chief sat down to talk with FOX 13’s Kelly Ring about the job, the controversy, and her four goals she wants to achieve as soon as possible.
"I feel fabulous. I'm making so many relationships in the community and so many relationships in the department. I have so many stars in my eyes of what I want to do and I'm making a lot of strides forward," she said. "I'm trying to bring a nice upbeat, positive message to the department because I know the police force has been through a lot in the last few years and I want them to feel nurtured and valued and an important member of this organization."
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But first, Tampa Police Chief Mary O'Connor is gaining the support of the rank and file of the department.
One person she has a history with is Ruben "Butch" Delgado, who served as interim police chief and was a finalist for the job.
"Well, what people don't know is that Butch and I go back to his very earliest years here," O’Connor said. "I was his FTO, so I trained him in 1998 when he was a new officer, so our roots go back 24 years."
O’Connor’s confirmation came with controversy, as questions were raised about her arrest when she was a young officer.
Ring: Were you surprised at the controversy and the tough path that you had to go through to get here?
O’Connor: No, I really wasn't. I knew those questions were going to come up. I knew the controversy was going to come up, so I wasn't surprised by it. I was a little disappointed at how much I had to explain to my children. You know, I'm not always sure that kids are always as mature as we want them to be and kids can be kind of mean to each other so I was really like overprotective of my children to make sure they were shielded from some of the controversy but also explaining to them why these questions are legitimate questions.
Just days into the job, she knows she has her work cut out for her. Still, she’s setting goals for herself and for the department.
Number one is crime reduction.
"We want Tampa to be a safe city," O’Connor said, bluntly.
Ring: This gun violence with these children, it's just heartbreaking.
O’Connor: Yeah, we need them to trust us. We need them to know that our goal is not to arrest our way out of the problem. It's to prevent. I mean, prevention is key. Prevention, then intervention.
Her second goal is community engagement.
"We want everyone to feel inclusive and that they have a voice at the table here at TPD," she said.
Her third goal is wellness for her officers and for the community.
"I really want the officers to have very healthy, fulfilling home lives. I want them to leave this department feeling that they contributed to the safety of the city and then live a long healthy life in retirement fulfilled and knowing that they did a great job here," she said.
And finally, O’Connor said, "I want to make sure all of the policies and procedures are effectively being communicated and implemented."
She says she feels honored to lead her department and serve her community.
"I'm excited and humbled for the challenge and I'm ready for it. I feel like it was meant to be," O’Connor said.
Chief O’Connor is the second woman to lead the Tampa Police Department. Current mayor Jane Castor was the first.
Right now, the city of Tampa has a female mayor, female fire chief and now female police chief.