TPD swears in a diverse pool of new officers
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
When Tallahassee Police Department swore in a group of new officers, Chief Lawrence Revell reminded them that part of their role will be to help fix a community-law enforcement relationship that has been on the rocks lately.
During most of the summer, Revell heard protesters called for police reform. The tension stemmed from police-involved shootings locally and across the country.
Revell believes that stemming the tide could begin with officers initiating a move toward engaging the communities they serve.
“It is their job; as well as all of ours, to step out and bridge that gap that exists between our community and law enforcement,” Revell said at the ceremony last Friday. “We are given the authority to police our community but we only have that authority because the community gives us that authority.”
Thirteen new officers received their badges at Gene Cox Stadium. Another group of 25 officers later took part in a promotion ceremony at Gene Cox stadium.
Among those sworn in were three Blacks, three women and a Hispanic. The makeup reflects an effort by the city to have a diverse force that reflects the community, said Deputy City Manager Cynthia Barber.
Having diversity in the makeup of TPD is a priority “because the public needs to see itself reflected in the department,” Barber said.
The new hires will help to fill 30 openings that would put the force at 410, but recruiting Blacks and other minorities remain a challenge, Revell said, calling it a nationwide issue. One way Revell said he would like to begin bringing about change is to return offers to elementary schools.
TPD could also influence more young people to join the force when officers embrace communities in their zones, he said.
“It’s incredibly important that we are in the community and I think it’s incredibly important that our communities see officer that look like them; no matter where that community is,” Revell said. “That inspires young people.”
Melina Matchunis, one of the new officers who has been living in Tallahassee since 2010, obviously understands influence. A resource officer at her elementary school left an impression that prompted her decision to become a police officer, she said.
Being sworn in was a surreal moment for her, she said, especially after overcoming an ACL tear that sidelined her from training.
“It’s been a long process,” she said. “I got injured during the last in-house training so I’m excited to be here. I’m honored.”
Elizabeth Glover, another of the new female officers, said she tried several other career paths before deciding a year ago that she’d join TPD. Her last job was in Panama City, where she worked for the state attorney.
Building the kind of community relationship that Revell spoke about is one of the things that she is eager to do.
“You are seeing people when it’s the worst day of their lives or one of best days of their lives,” she said. “I want to be a part of that. I want to be able to be that person that makes someone say ‘I’m so glad she came to help me.’ ”
Tyler Riley said he knew early in life that law enforcement or some other job that requires a uniform would be his choice. He often dressed as a police or military officer during career day events when he was in school, he said.
It’s his reality now. Riley is currently in his sixth year of serving in the Army National Guard.
Being a TPD officer is essentially a dream job for Riley.
“It’s work that doesn’t feel like work,” he said. “You’re out and about talking with the citizens. That’s not the standard 9 to 5 job. You’re really getting involved and learning things about people that some of their family members don’t know.”
NEW TPD OFFICERS: Nicholas Blutcher, Jeremy Booker, Tyler Bush, Chase Fannon, Elizabeth Glover, Deonte Hutchinson, De’Vonte Johnson, Stephen Keeler, Melina Matchunis, Kylee McPhail, Steven Newman, Franklin Olguin-Martinez, Tyler Riley.