'The Daily Show' roasts Tampa police chief's resignation over golf cart traffic stop

"'Oh, it's not recording, quick Doug, whack him over the head—let's get out of here!'"

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click to enlarge On Monday night, footage of Tampa Police Chief Mary O'Connor made it onto 'The Daily Show' where host Trevor Noah chided the former chief for pulling rank from the passenger seat of a golf cart. - Photo via The Daily Show with Trevor Noah /YouTube (screengrab by Creative Loafing Tampa Bay)
Photo via The Daily Show with Trevor Noah /YouTube (screengrab by Creative Loafing Tampa Bay)
On Monday night, footage of Tampa Police Chief Mary O'Connor made it onto 'The Daily Show' where host Trevor Noah chided the former chief for pulling rank from the passenger seat of a golf cart.
Over the weekend, from sea to shining sea, the country found out that for Tampa's police chief, it's "rules for thee, but not for me."

The revelations came after bodycam video of Mary O'Connor pulling out her badge during a traffic stop was picked up by countless outlets across the country. The clip reached every corner of the U.S. thanks to the Associated Press and even landed on CNN where a former Los Angeles Police Department sergeant dismissed outrage over the incident before later writing, "I don’t cite cops and neither do others. Your being bothered won’t change police culture."

There's no telling how the ethics violation by Tampa's top cop will change police culture locally, but it did bother one of O'Connor's biggest cheerleaders, Mayor Jane Castor, who accepted the chief's resignation Monday morning, less than a week after the video was first released to Creative Loafing Tampa Bay.

On Monday night, the footage made it onto "The Daily Show" where host Trevor Noah roasted O'Connor for pulling rank from the passenger seat of a golf cart.
After jokes about the U.S. Men's National Team losing to Holland, the late night host called for things to calm down so he could take the audience to Tampa, Florida, "Where we finally found the answer to the quantum physics paradox:

What happens when a police officer pulls over the chief of police?"

He then rolled a pair of CNN segments including the video where a Pinellas County Sheriff deputy pulls over a golf cart for not having plates on a public road. Behind the wheel is O'Connor's husband Keith, a former cop and current director of Tampa's code enforcement office.

As locals know by now, the video shows O'Connor in the passenger seat asking the deputy if his camera is on, to which he says, "it is." The chief then identifies herself as Tampa's top cop, pulls out her badge, says "I'm hoping you'll just let us go tonight" to which he obliges. She eventually hands over a business card and says, "If you ever need anything, call me—serious."

Noah stops the video as the audience laughs and says, "It's crazy that she asks if the officer's body cam is on before incriminating herself."

"Because what was she gonna do if the body camera was off?" Noah asks, before impersonating the chief saying, "'Oh, it's not recording, quick Doug, whack him over the head—let's get out of here!'"

Awkward.

Little did Noah know that in 1995 the same duo, just dating at the time, was pulled over by a sheriff on suspicion of DUI. Keith was also driving in '95, but Mary got in on the action according to deputies who said she kicked the windows of a cop car and punched a deputy as he tried to calm her down. Despite public outcry and the opposition of two city councilmembers, Castor insisted on O'Connor as police chief where she served for less than a year.

Noah then cracks a joke about the now-former chief doing "that thing white people do when they act like it hurts them to pull rank over you" and hits a hard truth when he talks about the nature of the resignation, calling it "the biggest waste of a scandal of all time."

"There are police chiefs who've stolen millions of dollars in drug money," he says. "Meanwhile, she's out here like, 'Yeah, I pulled some strings and drove super slow on the highway.'"

Longtime observers of the Tampa Police Department probably nodded their head at that one because it is puzzling that it was a golf cart that sent the chief off to do nothing and collect on a nearly $80,000 pension earned during her long career with the department.

Both O'Connor and her boss Castor, Tampa's first woman police chief, were among officers who oversaw a "Biking While Black" program. A Department of Justice investigation concluded that the program disproportionately ticketed Black cyclists at 73%, despite the population of Tampa being 26% black at the time.

O'Connor was also a high-ranking officer during TPD's crime-free multi-housing program, which, you guessed it, disproportionately evicted Black renters and also used questionable language to describe some renters.

"But enough about that," Noah concludes before moving onto the next segment.

Unfortunately for Tampa, the bit's not over.

Castor—who'll likely keep her lips shut about the incident during a re-election campaign launch in Ybor on Wednesday—has promised another nationwide search for a new chief. Her last search, however, was markedly executed with such little transparency that at one point even her own staff couldn't tell CL if the mayor had talked to any candidates. With an election to decide on who'll be mayor coming up in March, no one would be surprised if Castor punted the search until after voters go to the polls.

So for now, Tampa waits. And once again, the joke's on us.

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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