City Manager Talks Search For A New Tallahassee Police Chief

Jun 13, 2019

Outgoing TPD Chief Mike DeLeo's last day is July 5th. (2014)
Credit Sascha Cordner / WFSU News

Tallahassee City Manager Reese Goad says he’s accepted the resignation of Police Chief Mike DeLeo and that the city will begin searching for a new chief. In the meantime, Goad has named a 32-year TPD veteran to lead the agency. DeLeo’s resignation is effective on July 5th. He says he’s stepping down for an opportunity to address criminal justice and homeland security on a"national scale". DeLeo was hired in 2013 to clean up the agency after it was slammed with excessive force complaints and dealt with the fallout of a brutal DUI arrest of a local woman. But DeLeo has faced his own controversies—namely over hiring decisions and a relationship with a subordinate. City Manager Reese Goad tells WFSU News Director Lynn Hatter DeLeo’s resignation was unexpected.

You have named Maj. Steve Outlaw as interim [police chief]. How long has he been with the city? What is his current role in TPD?

Reese Goad:
Maj. Outlaw has been with TPD for 32 years this month. In fact, um, he had hoped to retire but he's been gracious enough to agree to transition up as interim chief. Um, I believe he's our longest serving, executive level TPD member. And so Maj. Outlaw of course is high in the ranks at TPD. He's served in many, many capacities including training capacities and matriculated all the way through the force. And so he brings a wealth of experience. Um, uh, and he's very well respected among the PPD officers in the law enforcement community and, um, I'm very pleased that he's agreed to help us move forward transitioning as we immediately began a nationwide search for the next police chief.

What do you think makes this job attractive? A lot has been made of our high rates of shootings in the last few years, but crime overall is down. Why should someone want to come to the city of Tallahassee?

Reese Goad:
Well, let me tell you, they will want to come. TPD is one of the longest continuously operating police forces in the United States. And it is a respected agency that's looked upon by many local governments and other police forces as the leader. So we know that the cake…already it's a large force with 410 sworn officers and has a budget of $59 million that has good resources. It has an excellent staff and officers-- whether it's frontline officers who are our leaders and the higher ranks in leadership. And so, it will be a coveted job. We will do a national search to make sure we get the very best candidate. That national search will include feedback from the public, engagement with the public, because it's that kind of position that earns the public's trust and protects us every day. And so, there's no doubt in my mind we will get the best candidates who will want to come because of the history and the legacy [and] good resources that TPD has to offer.

Will we be considering internal candidates and is the city itself going to handle this search or is it going to go for an agency?

Reese Goad:
To the first question: we will welcome the applications … my guess I,s we will get some internal applicants. Um, but we will do a national search. Whether or not we will use a recruiter that’s to be determined. We'll assess that in the coming days. And there are certain services available to us through the police state wide organization. So we may take advantage of that. But those are the kinds of things that we'll work on in the coming days to determine the exact approach. Uh, but it will be nationwide …and I fully expect to get along list of very qualified candidates.

Does this interrupt any of the department's current initiatives? The city is still searching for new headquarters for TPD. Chief DeLeo had put in place a lot of community policing programs. Will all of those things continue or is some of that going to be put on hold until we have a new person who may have their own direction they want to go in?

Reese Goad:
That's a great question. It's going to continue. I'd just met with the command staff of TPD, our interim chief as well as our deputy city manager and those are the things we talked about. Those are the exact topics we talked about is, how we move forward and how we've maintained the momentum of TBD. And I underscore that we would continue to press forward with the schedule that’s in place for the selection of a new headquarters for TPD. That will continue. We will also press forward to make sure we have the full workforce, we have the officers that we need and that we promote those vacancies within TBD [and] to continue the work made towards community policing. We've had success in that regard. We've been recognized internationally last year for those efforts and they will not slow down. They will continue at the same page. They continue. The benefit of having an interim chief that has a great deal of experience with TPD [is], he knows the culture, he gives us continuity and he's well supported by his other colleagues and TPD. So I do not expect any slowdown in those efforts.

DeLeo most recently clashed with Leon County Commissioner Bill Proctor over DeLeo’s efforts to put a new TPD headquarters on the southside. In a statement, Proctor calls DeLeo’s departure a “blessing” and is also calling for the Tallahassee Human Relations Council to investigate a complaint filed last year by a group calling itself concerned citizens of TPD. The complaint alleges hiring and promotion discrimination against black employees. DeLeo also survived a no confidence vote by the Tallahassee Chapter of the Police Benevolent Association. 

*Editor's Note: This interview has been transcribed and lightly edited for clarity.