In January of 2020, Lawrence Revell officially became the chief of police in Tallahassee, Florida. It didn’t happen without controversy. The initial selection for that position quit during contract negotiations after learning he wouldn’t have the autonomy he wanted… which meant Revell wasn’t even the top choice. And also, in 1996, Revell shot and killed a Black man — he was acquitted by a grand jury — and citizens were rightly concerned about installing him to run the city’s police department.
Now they have a new reason to be disgusted with him.
Last week, Revell spoke at a police retreat sponsored by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association — the notoriously anti-LGBTQ Christian institution — as part of an all-expenses-paid three-day event.
The news outlet Our Tallahassee got ahold of the audio of his speech and there’s some damning testimony in there. While some of it is just a Christian officer speaking “Christianese” to a like-minded audience — which is problematic since he’s speaking as the police chief and not as an individual — other parts encouraged other officers to convert their colleagues.
I can tell you I personally told many, many people that if I were going to get the job of chief at the Tallahassee Police Department, God Himself was going to have to come down and make that happen. That was the only way that that was going to happen. Well He did, all right, and while I wasn’t the the city’s first choice, I was God’s first choice, and I’d always rather be God’s first choice. (18:39)
… At my swearing-in ceremony, I was gonna have as many pastors as I could get from our community come together, and they were going to lay their hands on me in our ceremony and have a prayer… Now Tallahassee is a pretty liberal town. How do you think that went over? You’re right… It didn’t… How many days do you think it was before I got the letter from the ACLU? Two. (27:55)
… How will you use your platform to advance His kingdom?… When you took your office, I’m sure you had an agenda… What is your agenda for presenting the Gospel of Jesus Christ to your officers? (30:42)
… You are in the position that you’re in because God has ordained it. He has put you where you are for this purpose and this time to do His will. Are we willing to step up and do that? Our officers need to know that we care enough about them and their families to have that real conversation with them about the things that really matter. Peter and John used their platform as disciples of Jesus before the high priest and the council to hold the line to proclaim Jesus despite the opposition that they knew they faced of the council and these powerful community leaders and they lived up to their titles as disciples. So the question tonight that I’ll leave you with is simply this: Will you live up to your title? (48:25)
Let’s be blunt: If a Muslim police chief said anything like that at an event sponsored by a known extremist, there would be hell to pay. But when a Christian cop speaks an an event sponsored by a group known for promoting anti-LGBTQ hate, it barely gets any attention. That’s what Christian privilege looks like.
Revell is just as awful as people feared. He sees his job as a platform to proselytize, not as a secular job in which his religion must necessarily take a back seat. He’s selfish. He has no respect for people working under him who may hold different religious views.
Again, this would be bad enough if Revell just attended this gathering on his own. But he went on an all-expenses-paid trip while representing the city. It’s unacceptable behavior from a public official.
I don’t know if it’ll make a difference, but the Florida Coalition for Transgender Liberation launched a petition calling for Revell to be removed from office because “We do not need an anti-LGBTQ+ Chief of Police overseeing the police force in Florida’s Capital City.” They have 2,198 signatures as of this writing.
For what it’s worth, not all police chiefs take the same approach. Earlier this year, the BGEA invited members of the Seattle Police Department to join them for a law enforcement appreciation dinner. Their police chief rejected the invitation because he didn’t want to lend any sort of credibility to a bigoted organization:
Chief Adrian Diaz shared this message regarding the dinner:
“An internal email was shared this week informing SPD employees of a free appreciation dinner hosted by the Rev. Franklin Graham. Based on Graham’s history and affiliations, the email has raised concerns that the SPD may not be committed to the equity of our community’s LGBTQ members. I want to make clear the Department fully supports the equity and just treatment of all people. The SPD did not sponsor this event and is not connected in any way to its hosts. Today I sent a department-wide email to rescind the invitation because its hosts do not share the inclusive values of the SPD.”
That’s what a good police chief does.
Revell isn’t one of those. He didn’t just have a dinner on the Christian group’s dime. He took a three-day paid trip, spoke at their event, and encouraged other cops to treat colleagues and citizens as targets for conversion.
(Screenshot via YouTube)