Lawrence Revell Will Be Tallahassee's Next Chief Of Police
During a Thursday morning press conference, Tallahassee City Manager Reese Goad named Lawrence Revell Tallahassee's new chief of police. The move comes after Antoni Gilliam, who had been named chief earlier this month, rescinded his acceptance of the job. A crowd of law enforcement officers, local leaders, and Revell's family and friends gathered outside the Tallahassee Police Department just one day after Christmas.
"To say that I'm overjoyed is an understatement," Revell said choking up slightly.
Revell, who grew up in Tallahassee, has been an officer with TPD for nearly three decades. He will officially become chief January 4.
"As chief, Revell's vast community knowledge and strong relationships with both law enforcement and civic partners will enable him to affect positive change straightaway for Tallahassee," Goad said in a statement.
Addressing Violent Crime: Revell Lays Out Plans For The Future
Revell says some of his top priorities include improving diversity within the police department — especially at the command staff level and finding ways to build partnerships and support collaboration within the community. He says the relationships he has built during his lifetime living in Tallahassee will help him achieve that. He graduated from Rickards High School before going on to attend both Florida A&M University and Florida State University.
"I love every part of this town and I will represent every part of this town," Revell said.
Revell also voiced concerns about violent crime in the city, particularly among young people. In an effort to address that, Revell wants to create a pathway that helps participants in Tallahassee's TEMPO program go on to become community service officers. TEMPO is a program for underserved youth who are not working or attending school. Often participants have had a previous run-in with law enforcement. Revell talked about the idea during Thursday's press conference as well as during a community meet-and-greet presentation earlier in the interview process.
“So they’re now in the police department and they’re now working with us and after a predetermined amount of time – two or three years — we will establish a clear pathway for them to become sworn police officers. Once they become sworn police officers, we take those police officers and put them back in the quadrant they grew up in. They immediately become role models and mentors within their community creating a circle of success,” Revell said.
A Troubled Path To The Top
Revell's path to the position has been marked by controversy. After Antonio Gilliam announced he would not take on the job of chief, City Commissioner Jeremy Matlow released a series of tweets blasting the hiring process. Shortly after, Gilliam released a letter expressing his frustration with the negotiations.
Gilliam says he could not get the city to sign a contract guaranteeing that he would not be fired without cause for at least six years. He also says he wanted to select his own command staff, but could not get that in writing.
During that same time, Revell told members of the media that he would be named second in command. Gilliam pushed back on that statement. But some government insiders say he was facing behind-the-scenes pressure to name Revell, and point to that as Gilliam's main reason for rescinding his acceptance.
County Commissioner Bill Proctor sent out a statement claiming city officials planned to give Gilliam the title, while reserving the power for Revell.
It's not the first time Proctor has spoken out against Revell. After Goad announced Revell as one of the city's top three finalists for the job, Proctor held a press conference calling for Revell to be removed from consideration. He raised concerns about Revell's involvement in the shooting of a young black man in 1996.
"There are discrepancies from eye witnesses who watched Lawrence Revell kill George Williams in 1996. Citizens were not satisfied by the grand jury forgiving Lawrence Revell and letting him go free while George Williams went to the grave," Proctor said in an email. "Sentiments against Revell, the Tallahassee Police Department and the grand jury still run strong about this killing inside District One."
Revell shot and killed Williams as he tried to make an arrest. Williams got in his car and backed over an officer before driving toward Revell. Revell called for Williams to stop before shooting and killing Williams.
After Proctor's announcement, Revell later held his own press conference calling the incident "one of the saddest days of [his] life."
“The officer that was run over in this incident still lives with the scars--still has the scars from this event and is still an officer with us till this day," Revell said.
Community Leaders Respond
In a new statement sent by Commissioner Bill Proctor's office days before Thursday's official announcement, Proctor continued to raise concerns about Revell and his involvement in the 1996 shooting.
"A botched police search process has produced a botched choice for police chief who is not wanted by Tallahassee police officers who voted against his candidacy as a finalist. Time will prove – in short-order, the mistake City leaders have made," Proctor wrote.
But many community leaders, including Mayor John Dailey, are throwing their support behind Revell as well as the process Goad used to hire him.
"I have full confidence in Chief Revell to lead TPD into the future," Dailey said in a statement. "I also want to thank City Manager Reese Goad for establishing the most transparent process for selecting a police chief this city has ever seen. His selection of Chief Revell honors the community-based process and demonstrates his continued commitment to providing TPD with the personnel and resources necessary to meet the challenges before us."
Looking To The Future: Revell Says He'll Remain Focused On What's Next, Not The Past
Revell received boisterous applause Thursday from officers and members of the community as Goad made the announcement that Revell would be the next chief of police.
Revell told members of the media he does not believe he played a part of Gilliam's decision not to take the job and calls Gilliam a friend. He says he doesn't plan to dwell on friction that arose during the interview process and will instead focus on looking to the future and building positive relationships with all community members.