New TPD chief promises community partnership
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
Tallahassee’s new police chief will be calling on the community to help his agency fight crime.
Lawrence Revell disclosed his plan to form a citizen advisory committee, just minutes after he was introduced by City Manager Reese Goad as the man who will run TPD for at least the next five years. Working with other law enforcement agencies is another of his priorities, Revell said.
“We are going to coordinate a lot of those efforts but it’s going to take community involvement,” said Revell, 52. “We know that most of these crimes happen in view of people.
“People see them; people see things but there is a real fear in the community so we have to make our community feel safe in coming forward. When you do that, that’s when you’re going to see a huge reduction.”
Having an advisory committee will allow TPD to have an open channel of communication with the public and vice versa, Revell said. He plans to begin forming the committee immediately.
“That information flow is critical if we are going to represent this community the way that we have to,” he said.
Revell’s community engagement approach is one that could work, said Rev. Joseph Wright, who last month publicly endorsed Revell for the position. A similar approach helped to reduce crime in the South Florida community where he lived, said Wright, pastor at Jerusalem Missionary Baptist Church.
It was especially effective in Black communities, Wright said.
“That takes the pressure off law enforcement, feeling they have to come into the Black community with their hands on their guns; always feeling uncomfortable (and) ready to arrest and not communicate,” he said. “I believe it’s a growing opportunity to bring some of those ideas back to the table and let’s talk about them again.”
During his introduction, Revell, a TPD veteran with almost 30 years experience, was greeted with loud cheers from a crowd of hundreds that gathered in front of TPD headquarters. In addition to law enforcement members and government officials, his wife and children were present.
At one point, Revell was overcome with emotions, his voice cracking, while thanking his family just minutes into his acceptance speech.
Revell reassured the crowd that he knows Tallahassee, mentioning his upbringing on the city’s Southside. He mentioned attending FSU and FAMU, where he played baseball for coach Robert Lucas.
Fighting the Southside’s high crime rate won’t be his only focus, though.
“I just want you to know that I love every part of this town and I will represent every part of this town,” he said. “We will lead this community forward together. I look forward to the things we are going to do together.”
Being raised on the Southside makes Revell more knowledgeable about how to address crime in the area, said Pastor Greg James of Life Church International Center.
“To be in a place that you grew up in and to have transcended years upon years and see what happens in a community that you are a part of gives you a real pulse on the community,” James said. “To understand the Southside when it comes to violence, when it comes to crime; give you the real, real look. To know that, means that he has to be sensitive to what the needs are in order for us to bring about real solutions. This has been a divine moment orchestrated by God. I really feel that he is the David for this moment.”
Later, Revell told a group of reporters he is ready to move past the controversy that foreshadowed his selection. He was one of three finalists in a field that emerged after a lengthy search following the resignation of Michael DeLeo in July.
Antonio Gilliam was offered the position but a breakdown in negotiations led a dust up between the city and Gilliam. One of his biggest concerns was getting autonomy to run the department. Some language in the contract also was an issue for Gilliam.
After he rescinded, Goad said eight candidates, including the other finalist, TPD major Lonnie Scott, would be considered for the job. Scott, however, resigned to take another job in Gainesville just days before Revell was named to the top post.
An ordained minister, Revell said he relied on a higher power to make it through the hiring process.
“As I said from the very beginning,” he said, “God has a plan and we are seeing that plan unfolding today.”
Revell said he’s signed a contract before the ceremonies that he is pleased with. His annual salary will be $180,000 over five years. His swearing in is expected to take place Jan. 6.
Revell’s emergence as one of the top three finalists for the job sparked a protest from County Commissioner Bill Proctor. He called Revell unfit for the job, while questioning his role in the shooting death of George Williams in 1996.
Revell, who was cleared by a grand jury, said he has struggled with what happened, although it’s the kind of incidents that offices face daily.
However, Goad said during the ceremony that the selection “process was resilient due to its completeness and the quality of candidates.”
He added: “Our community wants to rally around our chief and that’s what’s going to happen.”
Indeed that was obvious.
”I think they’ve made an excellent selection in chief Revell,” said Tom Coe, TPD chief from 1994 to 1997. “He is a person of integrity. You can trust him (and) he is honest. Based on past performance, I’m confident he will do a good job for this community in the future.
“But he is inheriting a difficult and tough job. He will absolutely need the community support and the support of the internal staff of TPD to be successful.”
One of the challenges that Revell inherited is the shortage of officers and a lack of diversity in the agency. He listed those among his priorities in addition to improving TPD’s relationship with other law enforcement agencies.
However, Revell’s plan to interact with the community is perhaps most vital, said James.
“Without communication, people are misguided,” James said. “To hear him make that a priority says that he is concerned about the community being informed and inspired about change. I’m excited about that.”