Antonio Gilliam, Lawrence Revell, and Lonnie Scott are the finalists for Tallahassee’s new police chief. The City is looking for someone who can reduce gun violence and improve relationships with communities of color.
Inside Tallahassee Community College’s Innovation Center, candidates from all over Florida waited to be interviewed. They were each given 45 minutes to prove they have what it takes to head the Tallahassee Police Department.
During their interviews, candidates sat alone at a table draped in black cloth. In front of them, the Community Partners Committee. The group is made up of 15-members including FSU and Leon County’s police chiefs, and Tallahassee’s NAACP branch.
City Manager Reese Goad sat in the middle of the group. His question picked at the city’s wounds.
“Some communities around the country are being – are facing strained relationships between law enforcement and the African American community,” Goad said.
Interviewing St. Petersburg Assistant Police Chief Antonio Gilliam, who’s a Tallahassee native, Goad leaned into the microphone: “How do you deal with the perception and reality of these relationships?”
Gilliam grew up in the Southside of Tallahassee, where he says drug dealers were a common sight at his bus stop.
“Five of my childhood friends have been murdered. Four from gun violence. One was beaten to death with a brick,” Gilliam said.
Gilliam wants officers to take a humanistic approach when dealing with criminals.
“You are not, as a law enforcement officer – whether you are deputy sheriff or you’re a police officer – you are not someone who that’s lording your authority over individuals. You’re someone who’s working hand in hand with the community in order to make everyone safe,” Gilliam told the committee.
Gilliam is one of the city’s final candidates. Narcotics is one of his specialties. Gilliam has also worked on the St. Petersburg Street Crimes Unit, which tries to find a solution to gun violence.
The other two candidates are from TPD. Administrative Services Bureau Commander Lonnie Scott and Criminal Investigations Bureau Major Lawrence Revell.
“I was born and raised here. I’ve never wanted to live anywhere else,” Major Revell said. He wants to push a grass roots approach to community policing.
“My top priority would be to improve the relationship between all aspects of our community and the Tallahassee Police Department,” Revell said.
Revell has worked in numerous departments including Criminal Investigations, High Risk Offenders and Homeland Security. He also founded a task force to stop human trafficking.
Commander Scott is from Miami, but he says Tallahassee has grown on him.
“I love the people here. Love the fact that when you walk down the street and you speak to people they speak to you,” Scott said.
Scott has been with TPD for more than five years. He says his priority is cracking down on gun violence.
“We have to start talking with some of the people who are out there actually committing these types of offenses,” Scott asserted.
All three candidates say they would make extra efforts to reach out to Tallahassee residents. That’s something the Community Partners Committee is looking for. Members asked how candidates would work with communities of color and reduce gun violence.
“We just eclipsed the one-year anniversary of our hot yoga shooting,” Goad said. “And so we know these kind of issues have happened in Tallahassee, and we want to make sure we get the words of the candidates and their thoughts about these real serious issues."
The interviews lasted all day. The city hopes to announce its next police chief by the end of 2019. But for now, a meet and greet with the top three candidates is scheduled for November 18.