TAMPA, FLA. — The City of Tampa hosted a community forum to introduce the finalists for the open position of Tampa Police Chief.
The forum at the Hillsborough Community College Ybor Campus started at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday.
It lasted about an hour. Audience members had an opportunity to meet the candidates and participate in the selection process.
There are three finalists for the job including Interim Chief Ruben "Butch" Delgado who has been operating as Interim Chief of Police since October 1, 2021. Prior to his role as Interim Chief, he was the Assistant Chief Of Police overseeing police investigations and support services functions.
He has served in all three patrol districts, the Support Services Division and the Criminal Investigations Division. He played an instrumental role in investigating the Seminole Heights murders in 2017. He is a Tampa native.
Interim Chief Ruben had a family emergency and was unable to attend the forum.
The other two candidates for the job answered six questions.
Assistant Chief Cherise Gause has served for 28 years in law enforcement. She began her career with the Miami Police Department in 1993 as a civilian dispatcher and has ascended through the ranks.
She was promoted to the rank of Assistant Chief of Police in September 2918 and currently leads the Field Operations Division. She said she is passionate about public safety, community policing, constitutional policing, and community engagement.
"My top priorities would be crime reduction, building relationships with the community, focusing on officer's wellness and making sure our officers are equipped to go out and do their jobs on a daily basis," said Assistant Chief Gause.
Mary O'Connor is the third finalist for the job. She dedicated the first 22 years of her career to serving Tampa. She worked her way through the Tampa Police Department and retired as the Assistant Chief in 2016. She spent the next 5 years working with agencies across the country through her work with the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI Law Enforcement Executive Development Association.
"In the last few years, I have encountered and taught and trained and assisted police departments everywhere and thousands of law enforcement officers. The relationships are the most important part, the human connections are the most important part," said O' Conner.
O'Conner helped police departments develop strategic plans for reducing crime by focusing on community engagement and evidence-based policing. She is a senior faculty member of the FBI's premier leadership training program that helps develop police officers into well-rounded leaders who understand diversity, collaboration social equity, and trust-building.
O'Conner created an after-school program to help children thrive in a disadvantaged neighborhood. She was also instrumental in the development of breakthrough technology that improved officer and community safety.
Mayor Jane Castor said she expects to name a new police chief within the next week.
"It's a very difficult decision, but more importantly it's one of the if not the most significant decision that a mayor can make because you can't realize your vision for a city if it's not a safe and secure foundation," said Mayor Jane Castor.