Pensacola gets new top lawman

by Jeremy Morrison

Eric Randall will be Pensacola’s new police chief, following Pensacola City Council’s approval on May 13 of Mayor Grover Robinson’s selection of the city’s top law enforcement officer.

“Welcome back to Pensacola,” city council President Jared Moore told Randall, following the candidate’s unanimous approval by the council.

Currently serving as assistant chief of police with the Newport News Police Department in Virginia, Randall grew up in Pensacola, where he graduated from Booker T. Washington High School before pursuing a career in law enforcement.

Though the city council’s approval of Randall was unanimous, some members expressed reservations. Councilwoman Sherri Myers said she had poured over the selection committee notes to discover why local candidates with experience within PPD—specifically interim chief Kevin Christman and former PPD chief David Alexander —were passed over.

“I was hoping to find something in their notes that would enlighten me as to why the mayor chose someone who has not been affiliated with our police department,” Myers said, soft-lobbying for the local candidates. “Just looking at their qualifications against the other people, for the life of me, I cannot understand why one of those was not chosen.”

But then Myers met personally with Randall and warmed to the candidate.

“I had a great conversation with him,” she said, adding that it was still a tough call. “I did not come to the decision easily, and it still weighs heavy on my heart.”

The councilwoman said that she was encouraged about Randall’s arrival after digging into his work in Virginia. She said she’s hopeful that the new chief will bring the same energy and initiatives to Pensacola.

“I’m hoping, and I’ve said this to him, that he will have the freedom to bring a lot of good things to the city of Pensacola, and based on my conversation with him, I believe that he will,” Myers said.

Mayor Robinson selected Randall from a slate of three finalists for the position. The hometown candidate will take the helm of the Pensacola Police Department on June 14.

21st Century ReBranding

Pensacola will be scrubbing Confederate iconography from Pensacola Police Department uniforms, vehicles and other materials. But it remains to be seen when such imagery will be removed or how much the effort will cost.

Pensacola City Council members voted unanimously this month to set aside nearly $300,000 to replace badges and other items featuring the Confederate flag — until recently, part of the city’s five-flags line-up — but will wait until the September budget season to dig deeper into this issue.

Eric Randall, selected minutes earlier as the city’s new police chief, weighed in on this issue, describing it as “something that has to dealt with.”

“When you talk about 21st Century policing, just think about all that went on last year in 2020 with the protest and the country calling for these symbols to be removed and how can we, as the face of the government, the most visible face of the government each and every day, as public safety professionals, walk around with this symbol, this symbol that has caused so much consternation in communities across this country?” the new chief said.

Randall told city council members that he would appreciate the opportunity to take a look at how best to go about a PPD “rebrand,” and they appeared to agree, ultimately earmarking the needed funding and tabling a decision until the fall.

“We’re right here on the cusp of it; let’s let him come aboard,” Councilwoman Jennifer Brahier suggested waiting for Randall to get to town this summer and assess how best to proceed.

Randall told the council that he looked forward to taking on the task.

“If we’re gonna rebrand, we’ve got to rebrand right,” Randall said. “The community has asked for this, and coming in as the new chief, it is a task that I’m going to take on because we have got to rebrand our police department for this 21st Century policing. It is critically important if we want to be a community engagement agency not to be able to stand in front of children and others and have these symbols on our uniforms.”

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1 thought on “Pensacola gets new top lawman

  1. I think that Robinson sold Randall short saying that he was selected because of his “heart.” That’s not a good reason to pick anyone to be a city department head. Lots of people with “heart” try real hard to do all sorts of things and can’t get anything done because they lack talent, skill and focused energy. I was given a copy of Randall’s six-page resume. Both his military experience (1991-2000) and law enforcement experience (1998-2021) are very impressive. I was surprised to learn that when I was in Sarajevo during the Kosovo War in 1999 Randall was not far away in the Adriatic on the USS Enterprise providing air support.
    He will bring a breadth of knowledge and experience to the police chief job that no one has seen here before. His resume is exhausting to read because he must have worked like a dog to get all of the stuff done. You can see that he’s a “doer.” One of the mayoral candidates, one is a city resident and three are not, is reportedly already maneuvering to get rid of Randall in November 2022 so someone needs to warn him that he’s stepping into a back-stabbing nest of vipers where lots of people will be trying to make him look bad or drag their heels on his initiatives. Robinson really undercut Randall when he said that he said he told the senior PPD officers their jobs are all safe. Robinson’s lack of leadership is killing us. Now, if Randall spots a very talented junior officer and wants to promote him he cannot until someone retires. At least one councilmember asked to meet with Randall and the other two candidates when they were in town. Mayor Robinson refused. The three candidates certainly had plenty of time on their hands to meet with all sorts of self-important people far less important than the seven councilmembers. Randall’s first job should be to get inside the heads of the councilmembers. They are the ones who will be deciding whether or not to fund his good ideas. Contrary to what city hall operatives want us to believe, the city is rolling in money. Perhaps now is a good time to decide that public safety is more important than staffing city hall with an extra platoon of paper pushers. A good start once Randall hits the ground is to invite each councilmember to take him on a tour of their district to get the lay of their land. He can do one a day. Randall should give each councilmember his work cell phone number too.

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