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TCAC City Commission Forum Asks Candidates To Weigh In On Police Oversight, Reese Goad

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Candidate forums are a hallmark of campaigning and Who hosts them is often just as telling as the candidates that attend them. Saturday, the progressive-leaning, Tallahassee Community Action Committee asked candidates running for two open city commission races to weigh in on a series of topics. The TCAC is focused on actionable solutions to pressing issues such as police brutality and economic inequality, and it posed questions on those issues for candidates running for City Commission Seats 1 and 2, among the most contested races this cycle in Leon County.

City Commissioner Elaine Bryant occupies Seat 1. It appointed her to the commission after the resignation of Scott Maddox and Bryant is running to keep the position. But she’s facing a big challenge from Jack Porter. The race is proving to be a political split among Democrats, with Bryant appealing to the party moderates while Porter is pushing more progressive policies. Bryant was absent from Saturday’s TCAC forum, as was fellow candidate William Moore, leaving Porter as the only candidate for Seat 1 to log on to zoom for the Facebook live Q&A.

When it comes to addressing policing, a big issue in the city amid a still-high violent crime rate, high-profile shootings and increased focus on police interactions with Black and Brown people, Porter said she believes in true civilian oversight, “with the ability to fully review and consent to all practices carried out by our officers.”

TCAC has been pushing for an elected police oversight panel. The Tallahassee Police Department has moved forward with an appointed advisory group.

Trish Brown, a Seat 2 candidate, says a community police advisory council with elected, independent members, should be put in place. “You want us to trust you… you have to be forthright and transparent,” she says. “This is crucial to safer communities for everyone.”

Bill Schack, who is also running for Seat 2, notes any changes to the oversight of the Tallahassee Police Department would require changes to state law and city charter, and suggests using the existing Independent Ethics Board. What he’s not in support of, is defunding, or re-allocating money away from TPD, saying the city can support its police while also addressing health and human services.

“We can do both,” Schack said. “Crime and public safety should be the number one concern in this city.”

Gerry Seay, who is running for Seat 2, says the city should invest in both better pay for police officers, and housing for them in the city so they become more embedded in the community. The Tallahassee Police Department has repeatedly said its having trouble with recruiting new officers, and some do not live in the city or the county.

Candidates for both seats leveled their harshest criticism at City Manager Reese Goad, saying he’s failed to do his job. Among the issues with Goad is what candidates say was the mishandling of the police chief search which resulted in the appointment of Lawrence Revell, after St. Petersburg Deputy Chief Antonio Gilliam refused the job over a contract dispute with the city.

Gilliam recently unveiled a program in St. Pete called a “Community Assistant Liaison” that would respond to non-criminal mental health and social service calls, instead of police officers.

“He does what he wants,” said Seay. “Everything we’ve been talking about—it’s under his purview.”

“His performance has been extremely poor. The people should choose the direction of the city, not the staff of the city commission,” said City Commission Seat 2 candidate Trish Brown. She says Goad dropped the ball with his handling of the police chief search.

Schack agrees though he says he supports Revell. “Reese Goad should be removed from office.”