Tampa names 3 finalists for police chief, introduces them at community forum

·5 min read

Tampa has announced three finalists to become its next police chief.

Current interim police Chief Ruben “Butch” Delgado, Miami Police Department Assistant Chief Cherise Giordani Gause and former Tampa police Assistant Chief Mary O’Connor are the finalists, the city said in a news release Wednesday.

The city hosted a community forum at the Hillsborough Community College Ybor Campus on Wednesday evening to introduce the finalists. Because of limited space, the forum was not open to the public and only those who were invited were permitted to attend.

At a press conference following the forum, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor told reporters she had worked with Rodney Monroe, who served as a police chief in Charlotte, N.C.; Richmond, Va.; and Macon, Ga., to search for candidates for the job. When asked how many candidates the city had contacted, Castor said she did not know that number.

City spokesperson Adam Smith said the search was not open to the public. He was unable to provide a list of the candidates considered for the job.

Those invited to the forum included members of Tampa City Council, the Mayor’s Community Task Force on Policing, the Citizens Review Board, Neighborhood Watch, Neighborhood Associations, Tampa Parks & Recreation Teens Leading Change and the Mayor’s Youth Corps.

Due to a family emergency, Delgado was unable to attend the forum, officials said.

There were varying degrees of opinion about whether the new chief should come from outside the department. Delgado is from within, O’Connor served 22 years with the department before retiring in 2016, and Gause is from outside the department.

Delgado has been interim police chief since former Chief Brian Dugan retired in the fall. He has been with the department for 23 years and has worked his way up the ranks over that time.

Before becoming interim chief, Delgado was the assistant chief overseeing police investigations and support services. Prior to that, he served in all three patrol districts and in criminal investigations. While he was captain of that division, he played a large role in the investigation into a serial murder case in Seminole Heights in which four people were killed and a suspect was eventually arrested.

Delgado also served in the lead role for planning public safety efforts for Super Bowl LV in Tampa last year.

He is a Tampa native who graduated from Jefferson High School and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Florida. He is married with two children.

Gause has been with the Miami Police Department for 28 years and currently leads the field operations division. According to the Miami Herald and the Miami New Times, Gause was also one of eight finalists in the Miami Police Department’s search for a new chief last year before another candidate was selected.

She began her career as a dispatcher in 1993 and has worked her way up the ranks over the years. She was promoted to assistant chief in 2019. She has worked in all three divisions of the Miami Police Department: field operations, administration and criminal investigations.

She has a Master of Science degree in organizational leadership from Union Institute and University, a bachelor’s degree in public administration from Barry University and an associate degree in criminal justice from Miami-Dade College.

O’Connor worked for the Tampa Police Department for 22 years before retiring as an assistant chief in 2016. At the time of her retirement, O’Connor said she had originally planned to retire after 20 years to focus on her family, but had stayed longer than she anticipated as she moved up the ranks.

She was also named a top candidate in the search for a police chief to replace Jane Castor, after the now-mayor retired from the department in 2015.

O’Connor has worked with the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI Law Enforcement Executive Development Association since her retirement from the police department.

“As a senior advisor with a leading law enforcement think tank, Mary helps police departments develop strategic plans for reducing crime by focusing on community engagement, and evidence-based policing,” the city said in its news release.

She also is “a senior faculty member of the FBI’s premier leadership training program that helps develop police officers into well-rounded leaders who understand the importance of diversity, collaboration, social equity, and trust-building,” the release states.

On Wednesday evening, Gause and O’Connor answered a series of questions from those invited to the event, ranging from topics such as how the candidates would prevent police brutality to why citizens should trust them to help the community. Both candidates pledged to hold officers accountable and protect citizens’ rights, but neither discussed concrete policies in depth.

Gause said her top priorities, if selected as Tampa’s next police chief, would be crime reduction, officer wellness and training, building relationships with the community and leveraging technology.

“Policing as we have known it in the past has changed,” she said. “The future of policing, though, I think, is still optimistic.”

O’Connor said during her time as a Tampa police officer, she was proud of her commitment to justice for victims and those in need. She said she prioritizes connections with the community and wants to make sure all the city’s residents feel safe.

“Having relationships with the community starts with one encounter at a time,” O’Connor said. “And that citizen needs to feel that they are part of a relationship here and not in an adversarial situation.”