Candidates for Tampa police chief open at community forum; 1 address before arrest
TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The search for Tampa’s next police chief is underway.
The three finalists are Acting Tampa Police Chief Ruben Delgado, Miami Police Department Deputy Chief Cherise Gause and former Tampa PD Deputy Chief of Operations Mary O’Connor.
Two of the three candidates answered several questions during a community forum on Wednesday evening and had the opportunity to share their policing strategies. Delgado was not at the forum due to a death in the family.
Gause promised to focus on the crime problem.
“I will focus on community relationship building, welfare and officer training,” Gause said.
“They need to feel safe, confident and that they can trust their police department,” O’Connor said.
While researching the contestants, 8 On Your Side learned that O’Connor was arrested in 1995 while serving as a police officer in Tampa. She was charged with assault and battery on a law enforcement officer and disorderly drunkenness.
“I believe in second chances,” O’Connor said. “I’m a big believer in people making mistakes and learning from them and getting a second chance to prove themselves, and I got that second chance in 1996, and I’m a better person because of it, I am a stronger chief, and i am going to be a more complete police chief because of the adversity i have been able to overcome.
Regina Virgil was born and raised in Tampa. She likes where she lives, but things could be better. She says gunshots are a constant.
“All the time in East Tampa, every three days, there’s no end in sight,” Virgil said.
Virgil is with East Hillsborough Heights Neighborhood Crime Watch. She joined many of her neighbors on Wednesday to take part in the selection process for the next police chief.
“We want someone who can keep us safe, engage us and be part of the solution,” Virgil said. “We want to partner with the chief of police, we want to be part of the plans for our neighborhoods and make them safe.”
Also present were the Tampa City Council, a Citizens Review Committee and neighborhood associations. Former Tampa Police Chief and current Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said she hopes to make a decision within a week.