City law enforcement agency narrows applicants, list of HQ possibilities

Lee C. Bushong
FAMU sociology and criminal justice professor

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer

Any of the 20 candidates who could potentially become the new chief of Tallahassee Police Department has to have a plan that constantly engages the community to be successful.

The new chief will also have to restore public trust in TPD, said Lee C. Bushong, an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice at Florida A&M University.

Bushong, a former deputy sheriff in Lee County from 1998 until 2009 with an extensive law enforcement background, offered his professional opinion following the Tallahassee City Commission’s recent release of the top 20 candidates.

The candidate “that preconceived I’ve got the solutions to fix the issue will fail unless he or she has involvement of the community,” Bushung said in an interview with the Capital Outlook.

The city has been without a fulltime chief since Michael DeLeo unexpectedly resigned in June. Longtime TPD officer Steve Outlaw has been interim chief since DeLeo’s departure.

The announced field includes nine Blacks, with two of the Black being the only females competing for the job.
Meanwhile, the city also announced the top five sites for a new TPD headquarters. The search has been the source of public outcry over the initial selection of the

Towne South Shopping Center as TPD’s new home on the Southside.

Steve Outlaw
Interim TPD Chief

However, the commission abruptly suspended the search and called for public input in order to come up with a new list of sites. The current list also includes the Towne South Shopping Center as the fifth favorable of the five sites.

While Bushong agreed that TPD’s current location on Seventh Avenue has become obsolete, he spoke more extensively on the selection of a new chief. Another major priority of the new chief has to be a willingness to broker a partnership between the department and its stakeholders, he said.

“Being a certified law enforcement officer is not enough to run an agency,” Bushong said. “Somebody who is good with the budget isn’t what we are looking for. What we are looking at here is somebody who can build bridges, that’s going to get your community to buy in.”

Changing some aspects of the TPD culture would also be essential to the new chief being successful, Bushong said.

Such a person would have to change the concept that “this is the way we’ve always done,” he said. “It works so therefore this is what we will continue to do. If we get community buy-in he or she is going to have the support of the community.”

Six of the 20 names that were chosen from the field of 52 original applicants either have ties to TPD or is retired from the agency. Others are from surrounding counties and far away as Seattle, Washington.

Most notable among the applicants with ties to TPD is Outlaw, who has been serving as interim chief since DeLeo’s resignation.

Outlaw was planning to retire when he was offered the interim title. However, he’s since had a change of mind that wasn’t explained in the city’s release.

According to the job posing, the position pays between $156,000 and $173,000. Applications were opened from Aug. 9 until Sept. 12.

The Commission has planned a series of community meetings that will take place before the final choices are made for a new chief and TPD headquarters.