Tampa mayor’s pick for new police chief needs council approval, so far it’s not a lock

Councilman Joseph Citro has already publicly said, 'I don’t think I can confirm her.'

click to enlarge PHOTO VIA CITY OF TAMPA
Photo via City of Tampa
On Tuesday, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor told the city and fellow police officers that she’d like to see Mary O’Connor become the next chief of police.

At a press conference, Castor lauded O’Connor’s 22-year career at the Tampa Police Department (TPD), plus her five years working as a consultant and U.S. Department of Justice expert charged with helping other police departments reduce crime.

Castor also said she did not expect any pushback from city council, which will have to approve the pick. But O’Connor’s confirmation isn’t a lock, according to city councilmen who spoke to Creative Loafing Tampa Bay the day after Castor’s announcement.

“There is a process,” Tampa City Councilchair Orlando Gudes told CL, adding that he’s yet to see O’Connor’s confirmation on a city council agenda.

“This is a bigger position than the mayor. This is the go-to person when it comes to keeping the city safe,” Gudes, a 25-year TPD veteran, added.

Gudes told CL that he met with O’Connor—who retired in 2016 as assistant police chief—today to have a candid conversation and voice concerns from his constituents and the community.
He did not share the specifics of those concerns—and did not say how he would vote on the confirmation—but in1995, ​​a year after joining TPD, O'Connor was arrested for battery on a Hillsborough County Sheriff's Officer, a felony, along with obstruction and disorderly intoxication, both misdemeanors. A Tampa Tribune article referred to the arrest as a "drunken brawl".

On Tuesday, O’Connor told reporters she believed wholeheartedly in second chances, but community members were quick to point out the double standard.

"I think it's very clear that a Black civilian would have received harsher punishment for battery on a LEO," said Bernice Lauredan of the Dream Defenders, a group that organizes against governmental corruption in Florida. She added that discipline for officers like O'Connor is different than the way others are treated.

City Councilman Luis Viera told CL he’s meeting with O’Connor on Thursday, and added that he’s been doing his due diligence.
CL also emailed City Councilman Charlie Miranda to get his feedback on Castor’s pick, but has yet to hear back. Miranda represents District 2, which includes West Tampa where many constituents probably wanted to see Butch Delegado be named chief.

Delgado is a 24-year TPD vet and Tampa native who was acting as interim chief and has spent the last five months not only meeting with community members but guiding TPD through the fallout of a recent “Renting While Black” investigation.  The investigation found that efforts from TPD and landlords sometimes led to evictions of entire families over things as petty as shoplifting.

Over the last 30 years, four of six Tampa police chiefs, including Brian Dugan who retired in September, were promoted from within. Many in the city saw Delgado—who’s never been the subject of an internal affairs investigation—as a lock for chief. Delgado even had vocal supporters on council itself.

“I was a big fan of Butch Delgado. He brought a collaborative mindset, a fresh perspective and professionalism to the position,” Councilman Bill Carlson told CL.

He’s also yet to have a meeting with O’Connor, due to his schedule but said he looks forward to hearing more. “I'm sure there will be a robust discussion and community input when we vote,” Carlson added.

City Councilman Joseph Citro has yet to return a text message from CL, but today he told Bay News 9’s Josh Rojas, “I don’t think I can confirm her… Butch has a better record… He would’ve been my pick.”

Carlson and Citro are not alone; the Tampa Police Benevolent Association released a statement that said the police union was disappointed in the pick, adding that “​​“We want to congratulate Chief O’Connor and welcome her aboard. We are very much looking forward to working with her and her administration.”

Councilman John Dingfelder told CL he’s also not yet met with O’Connor and would not elaborate further on his feelings about the vote, which has yet to hit a city council agenda.

Former Councilchair Guido Maniscalco, who now represents District 6, has yet to return a text from CL, but had a meeting with O’Connor yesterday. “We’ll see where the conversation goes,” he told the Tampa Bay Times.

Section 6.03 of the Tampa City Charter says that after a police chief vacates the position, the mayor has 90 days to submit a candidate for confirmation. Council then has 15 days after that submission to confirm or disapprove such appointments by no fewer than four votes of the entire council. If council fails to act on the appointment within 15 days, the new chief would be confirmed. If city council disapproves the submission, the mayor must submit or resubmit the name of the appointee within the next 90 days.

This is a developing post.

UPDATED 02/09/22 9:15 p.m. Updated to make clear that CL emailed City Councilman Charlie Miranda to get his feedback on Castor’s pick, but has yet to hear back, and to add city charter rules of appointment.

About The Author

Ray Roa

Read his 2016 intro letter and disclosures from 2022 and 2021. Ray Roa started freelancing for Creative Loafing Tampa in January 2011 and was hired as music editor in August 2016. He became Editor-In-Chief in August 2019. Past work can be seen at Suburban Apologist, Tampa Bay Times, Consequence of Sound and The...
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