TPD not letting up on recruiting officers

Eight new officers were sworn in to join TPD at a recent ceremony in Gene Cox Stadium.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine
Sergeant Evan Alwine led a program at Walker/Ford Center where a TPD cadet recruiting class took place in late January.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer

While the pandemic has caused businesses to cut hours and reduce staffing for some jobs, the Tallahassee Police Department has been going full throttle with its effort to hire new officers.

Like the rest of the country, TPD is finding it difficult to consistently land recruits, but Chief Lawrence Revell isn’t letting up. During the last four months, the agency has sworn in 21 new officers.

But there are still about 25 vacancies within the department and Revell understands why. Stands the reason why he praised the eight officers who were in the most recent class of sworn officers.

“This is a tough profession and it takes a lot of character for these men and women to step up, especially during this time (of a pandemic) and say this is what I want to do,” Revell said. 

Attritions such as retirement and a need for more family time are high on the list of reasons why vacancies remain in police departments nationwide. Revell, who became chief 15 months ago but has been with the department for three decades, said he’s being supported by the city’s government in his recruiting effort.

“The city commission, City Manager (Reese) Goad and Deputy City Manager (Cynthia) Barber have been nothing but supportive with the money they provide us to help with recruiting,” Revell said. “You’re going to see the fruits of that with some billboards and recruiting videos.”

 TPD has been getting some help from community service technicians – essentially volunteers. Revell recognized four of them, including a graduate of the city’s TEMPO program, at the recent ceremony.

Using TEMPO as a pipeline for graduates from the program for at-risk teenagers to matriculate to TPD is a  concept that Revell has endorsed. Revell suggested that a TEMPO graduate could work as a CST for as many as two years within the department before gaining eligibility to apply for police training.

If the program is successful, Revell believes that TEMPO graduates who become police officers could go back to their communities as recruiters or become mentors.

In addition to the pilot project with TEMPO and community service technicians, TPD has had some graduates of its Cadet program become officers. In fact, the cadet program is headed by TPD Sergeant Evan Alwine, a former cadet who led a recruiting program in late January. 

“Our cadets are a vital part of what we do,” Revell said. “They’ve been around a long time. They are usually very successful because they’re already familiar with many of the workings of the police department.”

 The scramble for officers played out when TPD was looking for a new chief. During the search, Lonnie Scott, one of the finalists, left TPD for an assistant chief position with the Gainesville Police Department.

The struggle of filling vacancies in police departments across the country has been a constant topic. A national survey conducted over the last two years by Pew Research Center  that was carried out by the National Police Research Platform, showed that officers are concerned about how risky their job has become. During the survey, officers cited  fatal encounters between police and Blacks and protest like the ones in 2020 made it difficult to do their job.

Almost 8,000 policemen and women from departments with at least 100 officers participated in the survey, according to Pew Research Center. The survey also found that ¾ of the officers interviewed said they’ve seen an escalation of tensions between police and Blacks in the areas that they work. 

That was obvious in Tallahassee last summer when there was a dust up between mostly Black protesters and law enforcement officers. It escalated and several people were arrested during a clash with law enforcement officers.

While Revell wasn’t asked to comment on the events of last summer, he seemingly wants to improve relations between TPD officers and the community. He reminded the new officers they have to win the trust of the people in the areas where they work.

“Our community has to believe that we are people of integrity and we are going to do the right thing,” Revell told the new officers. “We are human. We are going to make mistakes. We know that, but integrity says we are going to try to do right.”

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