Tallahassee’s new police chief is promising an open door to anyone who wants to suggest ways to make the police department better.
Michael DeLeo will hit the four week mark as chief on Monday.
We sat down with him today for a one on one interview.
Tallahassee Police Chief Michael DeLeo has been on more than a half dozen ride alongs already trying to find out what officers face on any given night in the capital city and what they need.
“I got feedback and information from the officers who are actually going out and doing their job everyday,” DeLeo said.
“By not having grown up within the Tallahassee Police Department, I’m more receptive to change – I’m open to it,” DeLeo said. “Well this is how we’re doing it and we like to do it this way’ Okay well tell me how it’s better…why are we doing it this way? How is it better? because I’m not going ‘Well that’s how I’ve always done it.”
DeLeo, a 19 year veteran of the Plantation Police department, was sworn in December 30th.
He now leads a department that has come under fire in the past year for its use of force in the DUI arrest of Christina West, shots fired on an officer outside the city limits, and its handling of the sexual battery investigation of Jameis Winston.
“Those were things that were done before. I was certainly aware of them, read newspaper articles about them, but I haven’t sat down and read the case files,” DeLeo said.
DeLeo says he cannot discuss the Christina West case because litigation is pending. “As far as reading of the actual documents of the other cases, that”s going to be as time goes on. I met with Mr. Meggs. I’ve certainly listened to him and discussed and heard his concerns of what he feels would be better. I’ve heard from Sheriff Campbell and had similar discussions with him. I’ve been working with the community. You can only get so much from documents. The main thing is understanding and working with people.”
DeLeo says he is still gathering information about the department and the community.
“Most of the people I’ve met have been supportive of TPD and the good experiences they’ve had, but just like any other organization, we’re not perfect and there are always ways to get better. That’s my main focus,” he said.
DeLeo has met with the sheriff and state attorney and plans to meet with all of the city commissioners too.
He has not made any major changes yet but says his vision is to raise the bar from what officers can do to what officers should do.
“We should make our decisions and our actions should be taken based on our values, and we should be focused on what we should be doing, as opposed to what we can do,’ DeLeo said.
“In times of crisis,” DeLeo said, “I’ll be out front and be responsible for answering questions and be accountable to the public.”
The chief’s family – his wife and two young sons – will join him in Tallahassee after the school year is up.