Experts say officer-involved shootings should not disqualify police chief candidates

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By: Monica Casey | WCTV Eyewitness News
November 15, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Experts tell WCTV that an officer-involved shooting should not disqualify a candidate from being a police chief; they said it is an unfortunate, but sometimes necessary part of the job.

The issue has been discussed around the community, after Commissioner Proctor brought up a 1996 officer-involved shooting with Major Lawrence Revell, one of three finalists for TPD Chief.

In a press conference last week, Major Revell said it was the worst day of his career, but an important lesson.

"This also makes me uniquely qualified to understand the kind of trauma these events have on our officers and our community," said Major Revell.

Revell was cleared by an internal investigation and a grand jury.

Dr. Lee Bushong is a Professor of Criminal Justice and Sociology at FAMU; he also has extensive law enforcement experience.

Dr. Bushong discussed the multiple investigations that are triggered in an officer-involved shooting; Revell was cleared by every one.

"At every level I'm 100% confident in the system saying that this case was lawful and unfortunately the decedent was acting in such a matter that warranted such behavior. I don't think that should disqualify the Major at all," said Dr. Bushong.

However, Dr. Bushong questioned whether Revell was the right candidate for the chief position, due to the amount of push-back about the shooting, both in 1996, and present day.

"Is he going to be able to gain the community's trust in order to be able to do his job effectively, for the agency to do their job effectively, I think that's important to take into consideration," said Dr. Bushong.

Jason Johnson, the President of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund told WCTV on the phone, use of force should not reflect negatively on a candidate, as long as there was no misconduct.

"A police officer is being forced into a situation in which they have to use deadly force, and it can be part of the job," said Johnson.

Johnson believes a police chief should have a wide range of experience.

"You've had a full career as a police officer, you understand what it's like to be a police officer, you understand what it's like to be under scrutiny," said Johnson.

Dr. Bushong said Revell is qualified for the Chief job.

"He certainly has the credentials and the experience to be a great chief of police," said Bushong. "But I don't know necessarily that he's the right chief of police for Tallahassee."

Bushong believes that an outside candidate could benefit the community, and may have the best chance to improve TPD relationships with the minority community.

"Somebody that doesn't come from within the department, a new broom sweeps clean as the saying goes," said Bushong.

In a press release, Leon County Commissioner Bill Proctor called for the Florida Police Chiefs Association to return the $20,000 paid by the City of Tallahassee for help with the search. He said the agency failed to conduct background checks on the candidates.

He also asked the U.S. Attorney to open a new investigation into the incident.

Proctor alleged that a witness heard George Williams' mother was told “we will send you your son in a body bag” by TPD. He also alleged that another community member heard there was a "shoot to kill" order out on Williams, and that his killing was premeditated.

"This case is about possible corruption by TPD during the 1990's and the conduct of Lawrence Revell," Proctor wrote.

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