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TPD says it's committed to transparency as it walks back a recently released media guideline policy

Patrick Sternad
WFSU Public Media

The Tallahassee Police Department is walking back recently released media guidelines that have led to questions about what information the agency shares, when and how—and what’s missing. The document drew immediate concern from local residents and media organizations—including this one. In a Thursday meeting between TPD and other local media organizations, TPD Chief Lawrence Revell said the agency “dropped the ball.”

The guidelines were released last week and included language such as when reporters could contact the agency, and for what reasons. The plan also discouraged reporters from following up on alerts posted to the agency’s social media, and its online statistics platform.

Revell, along with TPD’s public information officer and other agency leaders met with WFSU, WCTV, WTXL, the Tallahassee Democrat, and the Capitol Outlook Thursday.

The conversation largely centered on what led to the memo and why the agency appeared to be trying to stifle information. Revell said the memo is NOT related to the shootings—that’s something that had been speculated about. And he said city commissioners and the city manager were blindsided by the public reaction to the policy and were also asking questions.

“I was the first and will apologize for that, I am the head of this agency and ultimately it's my responsibility to make sure that doesn't happen," Revell said, regarding the confusion sparked by the document.

'But this meeting was about moving forward and coming to an agreement on what information is needed…and I think it was incredibly productive."

The chief says the previous policy isn't active and describes it as a "first draft."

"We will build on that as a group, together and we hope to continue these meetings and build that trust and ensure our community trusts us and the media as far as putting out accurate information in a timely manner," Revell said.

Revell says the agency was trying to get in front of social media, which can often be full of misinformation. The agency says its planning to meet with local media groups monthly. In the meantime, it’s revising its information release policies.

Editor's Note; TPD’s published policy drew a rebuke from the Radio, Television, Digital News Association along with the First Amendment Foundation-WFSU Public Media is a member of both organizations.

Follow @HatterLynn

Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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