TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — January marked Tallahassee Police Chief Lawrence Revell’s one-year anniversary at the helm of the department. He sat down with ABC 27’s Angela Green to reflect on the past year, the future and his own controversial journey to becoming Chief of Police.
Revell said it’s been a long road to the top, but now that he’s leading the department, he’s proud of his first-year accomplishments and the support he continues to receive from the community.
He’s been with the department for nearly thirty years, and he credits the bond he has with religious leaders and other law enforcement leaders for that success. Revell said, "the relationship with the Sheriff's department has been the best it's been in 30 or 40 years. With FDLE, FAMU, FSU PD, every state agency, the State Attorney's office, all those relationships are just blossoming and as we work together, we can serve the community better.”
Those relationships are important when it comes to curbing crime in Tallahassee. The Chief says in addition to building those bonds, one of his top priorities since taking office has been to be accessible to the community. Getting immediate feedback has been a huge success, despite the pandemic.
"I've had numerous meetings and have ongoing meetings with students from both FAMU and FSU,” said Revell. “We have our neighborhood services and meetings that I go and talk all the time. I have my citizens advisory council that I go and talk to and they bring back feedback,” he added.
That input has helped the department become more transparent. The city now has a police advisory board to review officer-involved incidents and evaluate the use of force cases.
The department has also built a relationship with local activists. The department has used its input to create new technology; an app that will record interactions between police officers and the community. It’s called “Tallahassee Bystander” and it’s set to be available sometime this spring.
However, there's still one big obstacle when it comes to TPD’s reputation and his own in the community. The Chief said, "I knew that I could make a difference in building those positive relationships, but the trust that will take time. That's not built overnight."
Within months of taking office in January of 2020, TPD officers were involved in three back-to-back deadly officer-involved shootings. A grand jury later determined that the use of force in all three cases was justified.
In 1996 Revell was involved in his own officer-involved shooting. He shot and killed a 19-year-old Black man. TPD says the man hit an officer while trying to get away from a scene and that’s when Revell shot him. The Chief says it still haunts him today. "I struggled. As strong as my faith is you struggle with who am I to take another man's life,” he said.
Revell's actions were cleared by a grand jury, but that incident almost jeopardized his career path, after the details were thrust into the spotlight nearly 24 years after it happened.
The chief uses that experience to help his officers deal with the impacts of incidents that have taken place not only in Tallahassee but all across the country. Revell said, “It gives me access that others may never know.”
Another major challenge the Chief said he’s facing right now is recruiting new police officers. The department is down thirty officers. The department offers a signing bonus up to $11,000.
Despite all the obstacles of his first year as Chief, he said he looks forward to what the future holds, “I said from the beginning this is a God thing. I never thought I would have been chosen, but God worked through all of that, and I believe he put me here for a reason and I'm working hard to do the best job I can do while I'm here,” said Revell.
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