Searching for a chief
Revell’s involvement in ’96 shooting of teen comes into question
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
A day after Leon County Commissioner Bill Proctor called for the removal of Maj. Lawrence Revell from the list of finalists to become the next Tallahassee Police Department chief, the NAACP has asked the city to do more vetting of the candidates.
In a press release that Proctor handed out at a hastily called press conference last Thursday, he said Revell’s shooting of a Black Southside resident should put him out of the running to become the city’s next police chief.
Revell, a veteran of the TPD force, denounced Proctor’s stance, calling it unfair to him, the family of George Williams and the search process. Williams, 19 at the time of the shooting in 1996, was killed during a run-in with police and residents of the Springfield Apartments in Frenchtown.
Just three days before Proctor’s outcry, Revell was voted third among the top three finalists after a face-to-face interview with the 15-member Community Partners Committee. He received nine votes, while Lonnie Scott was the top choice with 14 votes and Antonio Gilliam was second with 12 votes.
The city was left to fill the vacancy for a chief when Michael DeLeo abruptly resigned in July. Steve Outlaw was named interim chief.
Nine of 10 candidates that were dwindled from an original list of 52 participated in a day-long interview process. Eric Smith didn’t receive any votes, while Perry Tarrant withdrew before the recent round of interviews.
Neither of the two female candidates – Audrey Smith and Agatha Gilmore – made the last cut. Smith received just one vote, the same as Outlaw and John Dale.
Gilmore, the current police chief of Lake City and a former TPD officer, was fourth among those receiving votes with eight. Glenn Sapp, another former TPD officer who is now chief of the Quincy Police Department, received five votes.
Proctor also took issue with Smith, who spent more than 20 years as a TPD officer, being omitted from the final cut. He suggested the outcome was the result of sexism.
“Objectively, the best qualified candidate is a woman, but this committee’s bias and prejudices limited their capacity to recognize truth from fiction,” Proctor said. “Our community opposes sexism because we know the value of capable female leaders.”
While the NAACP didn’t mention Revell in its statement, the civil rights organization touched on several of the issues raised by Proctor.
Ironically, the NAACP president Adner Marcelin is a member of the search committee.
Proctor and the NAACP questioned the role that the Florida Police Chiefs Association played in the process, proving 10 questions that the committee had to stick to during the interviews.
“The FPCA’s failure to conduct extensive background checks on all candidates who applied for the position, and to provide those results to the Community Partners selection panel, has created a cloud of uncertainty that stands to undermine the entire interview process for the community,” the NAACP’s statement read.
Candidates were only required to submit resumes and cover letters, the statement said, while adding that the committee should have been allowed to ask broader questions. Marcelin said he and committee member pastor Lee Johnson both went on record objecting to just the questions specified by the FPCA.
“This kind of dynamic could be a game-changing one which may have affected the top three ranking,” Proctor said in his release. “Due diligence was not exercised. This is a critical part of Mr. Revell’s background record. The search committee was not informed of such information.”
Revell had an immediate response to Proctor’s calling for his elimination from the list of finalists. He told reporters that the day of the shooting incident was the saddest day of his career.
“It’s time to stop these attacks on each other and come together,” Revell told reporters.
Having to take the life of another man is “a reality our officers face every day on the job,” Revell said.
However, Proctor insisted in his statement that the incident should be on the table to determine Revell’s eligibility.
“The search committee should be allowed to revote top candidates once they have been informed of the disclosure about the Revell shooting and killing,” Proctor said.
Although the shooting didn’t come up during the interview process, city manager Reese Goad disagreed that more vetting should have been done.
“The process we’ve engaged in is the most transparent community engaged process we could find to ensure we get the voice of the community,” Goad told the Tallahassee Democrat. “It’s very important to respect the process and their voice. I’m happy with it and think it’s important to respect the process and continue to the next steps which includes engagement with the community.”
Immediately following the recent interview at TCC Innovation Center downtown, Goad said the each of the candidates gave a good account of themselves.
“Every candidate had a strong answer to some of the questions,” he said. “But the theme was engaging with the community, improving relationships with the community, providing information as fast as they can.”
Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil said he also was impressed with the candidates’ response to community policing. He also responded to concerns about the candidates’ ties to the city.
“I think it was important for us to hear from people outside of Tallahassee to see exactly what they brought to the table,” McNeil said. “Today we saw that the person inside has just as much expertise and background as those from outside. We’ve got three very good candidates going forward and I’m looking forward to those outcomes.”
Revell’s involvement in the shooting incident could turn out to be a hot button during the next round of questioning for the three finalists.
That takes place Nov. 18 at the Lincoln Neighborhood Center when they will be questioned by members of TPD. Later in the day, they will be part of a community meet-and-greet.
In addition to Maj. Lawrence Revell (left) the other finalist to become TPD’s chief are Lonnie Scott, a major in the Administrative Services Bureau Commander of TPD, and Antonio Gilliam, Assistant Police Chief for the St. Petersburg Police Department.
Photos special to the Outlook