Tallahassee Commission Talks Public Safety, New Manager During Retreat

Jan 10, 2018

Credit City of Tallahassee

Tallahassee officials want to turn the police department into a place members of the community want to be. Commissioners are turning their eye toward a new spot and a new vision in the coming year.

As it is, Tallahassee chief of police Michael DeLeo says the Tallahassee Police Department isn’t very welcoming.

“You can’t find a place to park. You walk in. It’s dark,” DeLeo says

Commissioners say part of the current Tallahassee Police Department building is at least 100 years old and it is no longer serving the needs of the community. Instead, they’re looking for a new space—likely in the city’s Southside—with plans to offer new services. Commissioner Gil Ziffer says people shouldn’t associate going to the police station with something bad.

“It seems to me there’s an opportunity for early childhood learning for not only employees children of the police department, but also for people who live in the neighborhood so that we start to actually have people from different areas of town going to school together,” Ziffer says.

Ziffer says he’d also like to see a health treatment center in or near the new building. Other ideas include a basketball court where officers can build positive relationships with neighborhood kids. But commissioners say, they’d most like to hear what community members want. Officials expect to purchase a new parcel for the building and begin design and visioning work in the coming year.

The new facility came up as a topic of discussion during the city commission’s annual retreat Wednesday. City commissioners named public safety as a top priority Tallahassee’s over-all crime rate through the month of November has decreased by nearly 14 percent. DeLeo says he’s proud of the work his officers have done, but the next step is to ensure that change is sustainable.

“It can’t be sustainable without the community involvement, the community buy-in and their ownership of their neighborhoods and what we can do to support them every day. Because we can’t, even with all the resources that you’ve given us, we can’t be everywhere at once. It’s a large community,” DeLeo says.

DeLeo says one example is working with neighbors in communities where officials have installed cameras in an effort to deter crime. They’re asking residents in those communities to keep an eye out and to let officers know if the crime starts to shift to a new location.

Also during their Wednesday retreat, Tallahassee city commissioners outlined a plan for hiring a new city manager. Manager of Administrative and Professional Services Raoul Lavin proposed a four part process.

“One is hiring an executive search firm—and I’ll go into details on these in a little bit. Two is establishing key skills and qualifications for the position. Third, a critical component is community engagement and then the last one is obviously city commission selection process and finalizing that process,” Lavin says.

Commissioners did not select a new interim city manager Wednesday but said they’d discuss the issue further at a future meeting. Deputy Manager Reese Goad has been serving as interim since outgoing city manager Rick Fernandez took a leave of absence following ethics complaints made against him. He has since agreed to resign. There’s some question about whether Goad would be allowed to apply for the job if he stays in the interim position.