Tallahassee Police Chief Lawrence Revell faced questions from City Commissioners during Wednesday’s meeting about his paid attendance and comments during a law enforcement retreat last month.
Revell was paid to attend the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) Chief Law Enforcement Officer Appreciation Event retreat Sept. 28-30. His attendance has led to criticism from city officials and local community organizations.
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association has openly opposed same-sex marriage and employment protections from discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation. An article on the organization’s website argues marriage should only be between a man and a woman. The organization also backed a Supreme Court brief arguing that the Supreme Court should exclude gender identity and sexual orientation as protected classes when deciding Bostock v. Clayton County.
When asked by Commissioners to explain his attendance, Revell said he attended the retreat on his own time and defended the association.
“They do great and mighty things all around this world,” he said.
Revell also said he does not discriminate against anyone.
“How I treat the citizens of this community and how I treat members of my police department will never, ever include any type of discrimination. If you want to know whether that is true or not, go ask the men and women of my department,” he said.
During the retreat, Revell also gave a speech appearing to advocate for promoting Christianity in law enforcement agencies.
“What is it that you want for the men and women that serve your community every day? Hopefully, at the very top of that list is for them to know Jesus Christ as their lord and savior,” he said in his speech.
When Commissioner Jeremy Matlow asked what he meant by those comments, Revell reaffirmed that he does not discriminate.
“What I mean, in the speech when I was talking about that particular point, is the fact that we are examples by how we live our lives, by how we treat other people,” he said. “Our beliefs are manifest through how we treat other people. And we should use our platform to show that we are to treat all people with respect and dignity.”
His comments have not stopped criticism from some community groups.
Nine Tallahassee community organizations are jointly holding a news conference at 11 a.m. Thursday outside City Hall about Revell’s retreat speech.
“Chief Revell’s public leadership as Chief of Police at such an event furthers an atmosphere of discrimination, intimidation, and harassment against the LGBTQIA+ and non-Christian population in Tallahassee,” the nine organizations wrote in a news release obtained by Florida Politics.