TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Mayor Jane Castor announced Mary O'Connor would be the city’s new police chief in a Tuesday morning press conference. O'Connor will take over for former Chief Brian Dugan who retired after 31 years with Tampa Police last September.
“Through Mary’s experience from a beat cop, rising up to the second-highest position in the department; she has learned the value of an inclusive, diverse, transparent, and accountable agency which our community expects and deserves,” Mayor Castor said.
O'Connor worked 22 years in the Tampa Police Department and retired as the assistant chief in 2016. Since then, the city says she spent time traveling the country, teaching and providing subject matter expertise and training to law enforcement and criminal justice executives, while she’s also served as a consultant to the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
"I spent the last five years traveling throughout the United States, working with law enforcement agencies, and I can tell you without a doubt, TPD is the best police department in this nation," O'Connor said. "I was always filled with so much TPD pride when I would start working with other agencies. We do so many things well here in this agency, but like with anything, we always have room to grow.”
According to her bio, O'Connor "helped implement a progressive plan focused on smart policing and community partnerships that reduced crime and arrest rates by more than 70 percent."
“My first priority is connecting with the community. I believe in building a team approach to the crime fight," said O'Connor. "We must work together to prevent and solve crime in this city. As I stand before you today, I am committed to finding new ways of working together as a team to ensure that the community and every member of it has a voice in its police department.”
O'Connor shared focusing on officer wellness is a priority. On Tuesday, O'Connor noted a violent crime increase around the country and says combating that trend is also a top goal.
"I've learned from my work with the Department of Justice and FBI-LEEDA the importance of identifying root causes of crime and then partnering with social services to address and prevent crime from taking place in the first place," said O'Connor. "Partnering with social services will take the burden off of officers and provide people with the help and assistance that they truly need. We simply can’t arrest our way out of the problem. That doesn’t work, but you can also be rest assured that we will be holding the most violent offenders accountable for their actions.”
O’Connor will go before Tampa City Council on Thursday to be confirmed.
Chief Dugan had been the Chief of Police in Tampa since 2017. TPD applauded his work in community relations in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd, COVID-19, as well as safety during hurricane preparations and safety measures for major events in Tampa.
Danny Alvarez, with the Tampa Police Benevolent Association, said Dugan's decades on the force earned him a high level of respect.
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“When you see someone that has been at every spot along the way, it matters. So that they understand what the police officer, policewoman, policeman that is on the street, they know what they’re doing and they know what they’re going through," Alvarez said.
Dugan had a message for his future replacement.
“Whoever is the next person to be in charge, they have to be able to be flexible, open to change and listen to people," Dugan said.
Assistant Chief Ruben Delgado has been serving as acting chief after Dugan’s retirement.