McNeil Chosen to Lead Juvenile Justice

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Thursday, January 4, 2007 11:14 pm

Tallahassee police officers looked on in the Cabinet room at the Capitol Thursday afternoon as their top cop moved up to an even higher rank.

Gov. Charlie Crist named Chief Walt McNeil as his choice for the new secretary for the Department of Juvenile Justice.

"I am delighted more than you know that this fine gentleman has decided to join this administration. The lieutenant governor and I could not be more pleased to introduce to you someone who you know and know well and trust: Chief McNeil."

Twenty eight years ago Chief McNeil began as an officer for the department. The last ten years he's served as the chief. Fellow officers say his dedication and devotion to service are second to none.

"His foundation has always been the citizens of Tallahassee come first, he was always proud of representing the citizens of Tallahassee, representing the whole city in general and that just shows what kind of man Chief McNeil is," said OFC John Newland, who calls the departure bittersweet.

McNeil will take over in 30 days entering at a time when the department is under scrutiny for its involvement with the Martin Lee Anderson case and a rape charge at a Tallahassee facility.

"The first thing I'll do is take a SWAT analysis of exactly what the strengths and weaknesses of that agency are, and then we'll move forward," said McNeil, who admits he'll miss his coworkers.

He also says he's confident they'll have no problems filling the void.

"There are leaders here who are certainly ready to step into the position I am vacating and lead this agency to higher heights and do some great things for the citizens of Tallahassee."

The search for a new chief is nationwide and is set to begin in the coming days.

McNeil has another 30 days at the Tallahassee Police Department. Towards the end of that period the city manager will name an interim chief to step in until that search is complete.