On August 3rd, Tallahassee Police Chief Lawrence Revell appeared on The Steve Stewart Show on Real Talk 93.3. Chief Revell, who was appointed on December 26,2019, ad- dressed several issues, including current crime trends, the need for more police officers and officer recruitment.
Discussing the increase in violent crime, Revell noted that auto burglaries have consistently been an issue. Revell explained how these incidents often result in the theft of a firearm which is later used to commit a violent crime.
He went on to say that the increase in violent crimes like robberies, car jackings and assaults, will continue without a law enforcement response.
Chief Revell noted that strong-armed robberies and homicides are almost exclusively drug related.
When asked if legalizing recreational marijuana and drug needle programs impact his job, Revell stated, “Absolutely, one hundred percent they make our job more difficult.”
Revell believes that drug related crimes will continue even with the legalization of marijuana.
On the challenges dealing with the homeless, Revell explained that it’s a problem that law enforcement continues to face and one that takes up valuable resources. He noted that the enforcement of prohibiting persons in the road medians has had an almost immediate impact.
Funding New Police Officers
Earlier this year, in response to an increase in violent crime, the City of Tallahassee proposed a property tax increase to cover a $9.5 million increase in TPD’s budget in FY 2024. The increase would fund 20 additional officers and help pay for new crime fighting technology.
This proposed increase in TPD funding came after significant investments in non-law enforcement initiatives that have failed to impact violent crime.
City staff informed elected officials during a budget workshop that “while the City has invested approximately $31.5 million in programs to systemically combat the rise of violent crime, immediate progress toward the target to reduce violent crime by 10% continues to lag.”
When asked about the new funding, Chief Revell explained that TPD has half the officers it needs to effectively address Tallahassee law enforcement needs.
He noted that the budget increase will provide updated technology along with additional officers and it will make Tallahassee safer by providing a deterrent to crime in many neighborhoods.
Some local elected leaders, including Mayor John Dailey, City Commissioner Curtis Richardson, City Commissioner Dianne Williams-Cox, and Leon County Commissioner Rick Minor have publicly voiced support for more law enforcement officers. However, others – including City Commissioner Jack Porter and City Commissioner Jeremy Matlow – have remained quiet on the issue.
In addition, some leaders have argued that more police officers may have an adverse impact on minority neighborhoods. However, when asked what the minority communities think about the proposal to add more officers, Chief Revell said throughout Tallahassee people are asking for more police officers and want to see them in their neighborhoods. He stated, “Everywhere we go in our community people want the police there.”
In addition, Revell explained he has spoken to many business owners in Tallahassee who have expressed concern over the negative impact crime has had on their bottom line. He added that they are very concerned about how the ongoing crime issues will be addressed.
Impact of Anti-Police Rhetoric
When asked about the national anti-police narrative promoted by some elected officials and extreme antipolice groups over the last two years, Revell said there has always been a ground level of support in Tallahassee when it comes to law enforcement.
However, he said the national narrative demonizing law enforcement and the defund the police movement has impacted the way today’s youth view law enforcement.
When asked about recruitment of new police officers, Chief Revell said the anti-police rhetoric has created challenges. However, he noted that the bonuses by the Governor, the City of Tallahassee, and the positive view around the country that Florida supports law enforcement has had a positive impact on recruiting officers from out of state.
In April, Gov. DeSantis announced Florida awarded over 1,750 bonuses to newly employed law enforcement officers through a program operated by the state. According to officials, among those bonuses were 530 law enforcement recruits who have emigrated to Florida from other U.S. states.
Chief Revell said that by the end of the year, most of the open TPD police officer positions should be filled. He also said he is moving forward with recruitment activities under the assumption that the city commission will approve the funding for additional law enforcement resources.
The Tallahassee City Commission will officially adopt the 2023/24 budget – including the increase in law enforcement spending – at a public hearing in September.