Matlow: City opening itself to legal trouble in handling of TPD officer

Published: Mar. 9, 2023 at 7:35 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - Tallahassee City Commissioner Jeremy Matlow commented Thursday on last night’s city commission meeting, saying it left questions unanswered about city policies and protocols.

The commissioner expressed concern about Tallahassee Police Department’s decision to let an officer remain on the force after testing positive for a controlled substance.

“The city manager refused to go on record about how we got here and why we’re not following the policy and the mayor didn’t have anything to say,” Matlow said.

At Wednesday night’s commission meeting, City Manager Reese Goad said the decision did not fall on him, rather Chief Lawrence Revell, but that he fully supported it.

“This commission is the one who adopted the policy provision that was exercised by the chief, you voted on it Commissioner Matlow, you voted on it,” Goad said.

Matlow said it’s the job of the commission to make sure that city management is “enforcing city policy.”

City policy is a “zero tolerance” for drug use and any positive test results in termination, he said.

“When people call the police they want them to show up and be responsible,” Matlow said. “What they don’t want to do is call the police and have somebody who may be high on drugs, with a firearm driving a vehicle. That’s reckless.”

According to public records, the officer tested positive on June 3 for Adderall. In allowing the officer to keep the job, Tallahassee Police Chief Lawrence Revell cited an opinion from the Medical Review Officer that the positive test result could have been from accidentally taking the drug.

”The people you heard from today, they are not going to throw the employees out with the trash. They’re going to give them the benefit of the doubt,” Goad told commissioners.

According to public records obtained by WCTV last week, the city has terminated 21 employees since 2020 because of this rule.

Matlow said the move to let one officer stay on the job could leave the city liable to lawsuits from employees terminated under similar circumstances.

“What makes this case different?” Matlow said. “(Previously fired employees) are going to file lawsuits, they’re going to file challenges and who is going to pay for that? The taxpayers.”

WCTV reached out to all city commissioners for comment on this story. In a written statement, Commissioner Jack Porter said, in part, she believes the discussion about the handling of the city’s protocol in this instance should continue publicly and not behind closed doors.

TPD did not provide comment on this story.