County Commissioner Proctor calls for suspension of TPD chief in letter

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By: Mariel Carbone | WCTV Eyewitness News
Updated - February 28, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) — A Leon County Commissioner is calling for Tallahassee’s police chief to be suspended and investigated after accusations of racial discrimination.

Commissioner Bill Proctor sent a letter to city commissioners on Tuesday asking them to suspend Chief Michael DeLeo. He refers to a complaint sent to the Tallahassee Human Relations Council which accuses DeLeo of passing over black employees for promotions and raises.

"This aint no Smollet. People crying wolf and piped up charges. These are charges that are being leveled by people who usually charge other people,” said Proctor.

The letter, which was sent on February 13, said, “minorities have been overlooked for assignments and promotions." It also lays out about a dozen examples. It calls the firing of Officer Damien Pearson the most "blatant example." Pearson was let go last year after a police involved shooting and is still fighting to get his job back. The letter calls his termination “cruel and unusual punishment.”

It also claims Public Information Officer Damon Miller has been passed over for promotions and that he is allowed to serve as the PIO until big events happens. “Then DeLeo becomes the PIO and reports the story or incident as though Miller is incapable of doing so," said the letter.

In a phone call with WCTV, Miller said the letter was a “total surprise” and that he was still trying to process the information.

“Yesterday was my first time ever hearing anything…(there were) no rumors of any of this coming out at all," he said.

The letter also states DeLeo, “openly expresses his disgust with people of color in leadership and managerial positions.” It names former Mayor Andrew Gillum, Commissioner Curtis Richardson, Sheriff Walt McNeil and Commissioner Proctor as being targets of this “disgust.”

Commissioner Richardson and Sheriff McNeil declined to comment. Proctor said, “I don't think DeLeo has never told me to my face nothing."

Mayor John Dailey said he has not read the letter sent to him by Commissioner Proctor, and said no formal complaint has been made against DeLeo.

"Let me clarify, Commissioner Proctor communicated with the commission, but as of right now, no formal complaint has been filed with my office, or to the best of my knowledge, the City of Tallahassee."

The letter was sent to the Human Relations Council, which is an advisory board. It has no power to investigate and only makes recommendations about policy to the commission. If a city employee wants to pursue further action, a complaint must be filed with Human Resources. A city spokesperson was unaware if any complaints had been filed with HR.

WCTV has put in a public records request for that information.

Dailey said allegations of discrimination are not taken lightly. And action will be taken through the proper policy and protocol when the issue is formally brought to the city.

"This city commission truly believes in transparency and the utmost ethical behavior. And so we expect it from all of our employees at the City of Tallahassee,” he said.

It is unclear who is behind the complaint, or if anyone named in it wrote it. It was simply signed, “concerned employees.”

It is also unclear if the commission will discuss this at its next meeting, which is on March 6.

DeLeo has yet to comment on the allegations.

Wednesday, the Big Bend Chapter of the Florida Police Benevolent Association issued the following statement in response to the letter:

"President Steven B. Slade, of the Big Bend Chapter of the Florida Police Benevolent Association, reviewed a copy of the anonymous letter from Concerned Employees for Diversity at TPD dated February 13, 2019 which calls into question multiple poor leadership decisions and bias by Tallahassee Police Chief Michael DeLeo. President Slade acknowledges the following issues contained in the letter:

1) He has a tumultuous relationship with Chief DeLeo;
2) He was reassigned to the Patrol Division along with many of the senior Lieutenants in the police department;
3) The Police Benevolent Association conducted a survey of its members and 86% of the returned surveys defined Chief DeLeo as an “ineffective leader.”

"The Association’s survey results were previously sent to the City Commission and interim City Manager Reese Goad. President Slade encourages the City’s leadership to conduct a full investigation of Chief DeLeo’s troubled tenure in Tallahassee exploring the issues outlined in the February 13th complaint and the previously conducted survey of Tallahassee Police Officers."

On Thursday, the Big Bend PBA issued a retraction of its statement. To view the retraction, click here.

We will continue to follow the latest on this developing story.

By: WCTV Eyewitness News
February 26, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Leon County Commissioner Bill Proctor has written a letter to the Tallahassee City Commission requesting the "immediate suspension" of Tallahassee Police Chief Michael DeLeo, citing a complaint that was sent to the Tallahassee Human Relations Councils earlier this month.

In his letter, Proctor states:

"I request the immediate suspension of Police Chief DeLeo, pending an external and outside review by special committee with assigned outside legal counsel. This request is based on the long laundry lists of alleged intentional orchestrated discriminatory acts by Chief DeLeo aimed at undermining the upward mobility and shared governance of the Police Department with black colleagues. This complaint was submitted to the Tallahassee Human Relations Council (2-13-19). These allegations are serious, substantial and go to the core of the institutional integrity of TPD as a whole. It also ignites the issue of bias and institutional discrimination within and without of TPD.

The astounding clarity of the complaint submitted by sworn law enforcement employees captured as “Concerned Employee For A Diverse TPD” are easily verifiable. The alleged wrongfulness of deeds committed by DeLeo and perpetrated against numerous black employees is a major problem. You cannot ignore the 2-13-19 complaint."

WCTV has reached out to the Tallahassee Police Department for comment.

Commissioner Proctor's full letter can be seen attached to this story. Desktop users can find it at the top right of the page. Mobile users will find it at the bottom of this story.

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