Clergy shows support for TPD chief Revell

By St. Clair Murraine

Outlook staff writer

From his left to his right and behind him, too, members of Tallahassee clergy stretched their hands during a prayer for the city’s new police chief.

Essentially, they’d gathered at Bethel Missionary Baptist Church on New Year’s Eve to literally give Lawrence Revell their blessing. They also announced plans to form a task force that will help the new chief find a plan for combating crime in the city.

Before the ministers huddle around him in prayer, Revell, who also is an ordained minister, expressed his gratitude for their support.

“I’m truly humbled by your friendship; by your support,” he said. “I am encouraged and challenged by your prayers that I know will continue.

“This could not be a better start for what we are planning as we move forward and move forward rapidly than to call this community together in unity. It is time for us to move forward and we will move forward quickly.”

Several government officials, including city commissioners Dianne Williams Cox, Elaine Bryant and Curtis Richardson attended the press conference. City manager Reese Goad and his deputy Cynthia Barber also showed up to recognize the man they hired a week earlier to run the city’s police department.

Members of Tallahassee’s clergy pray with the city’s new police chief Lawrence Revell (second from right) during a press conference a week ago.

“I think it’s time now for us to rally around him and show our strong support; not only for the city police department but the Leon County Sheriff Department at well,” said Rev. Joseph Wright, pastor at Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church.

Wright, a staunch Revell advocate, said he is “fortunate and blessed to become the next chief.”

Wright also said that a recent spate of gun-related crimes is a “pressing issue that we certainly need to turn our attention to.”

He added: “Whether it’s domestic violence, whether it’s violence in the streets, we just have to deal with it.”

Gun violence claimed 19 lives in 2019 in the city and Leon County. More than 70 other gun-related incidents were also reported during the year.

Revell announced earlier that he will be moving quickly to form an advisory committee. Rev. R.B. Holmes suggested that the task force that Wright will head up could take the lead.

“We are together,” said Holmes, pastor at Bethel Missionary Baptist. “We are not fighting each other. We will reduce gun violence in 2020.”

Rudy Ferguson, pastor of New Birth Tabernacle of Praise, and Greg James, pastor of Life Church International Center, have campaigned in recent months against youth involvement in gun violence. Both are expected to join the proposed task force.

“As a young man growing up in Tallahassee, I’m baffled when I see what is happening in our community,” Ferguson said. “But I’m moreover encouraged because we stand here with a few of the spiritual gatekeepers in our city to say no more. Enough is more than enough.”

Commissioner Bryant expressed a sense of relief that Revell was hired as chief.

She called it “an awesome occasion that we now have a chief for the city of Tallahassee.”

 Less than two weeks before Revell was named chief of TPD, it seemed that Tallahassee native Antonio Gilliam would have left his job as assistant chief of the St. Petersburg Police Department  to become the city’s top cop.

However, a breakdown in negotiations led to Gilliam rescinding his decision.

Before and after he was named chief, protesters cited Revell’s role in the 1996 shooting death of George Williams. He was eventually cleared by a grand jury.

 Commissioner Williams Cox suggested that a higher power was involved in the process that led to Revell becoming chief.

“We didn’t see it but that doesn’t matter,” she said. “We don’t know (God’s) ways. We are striving to know his ways, but we yield to his will and his way that is the only way that we are going to heal our city. We are one community.

A contingent of religious leaders and government officials met on New Year’s Eve to show their support for TPD’s new chief.
Photos by St. Clair Murraine

“This is our chief. He didn’t skip the process, the decision was made and he is our chief and he has my full support.”

TPD had been without a chief since July when Michael DeLeo unexpectedly resigned. During the four-month search, Goad said, Revell has been consistent during the interview process.

“Every time he told me the same things about his spirit for Tallahassee and how we’re going to engage with Tallahassee and tackle our problems,” Goad said. “I know we have an excellent leader.”

Richardson praised the agency for its effort while Major Steve Outlaw served in the interim. Richardson called for city-wide support for the new chief and his support staff.

“They can’t do it alone,” Richardson said, referring to reducing crime in the city. “We as a community have to come together now to address this issue of violence, particularly the issue of gun violence which has been occurring in our community.”