On Friday, January 24th , shortly after 8:00 a. m., I received a call from Chief DeLeo in response to an email I'd sent earlier in the week. He was very concerned that he'd never received my phone messages and that no one was able to provide me with his contact information. It appears that Chief DeLeo does have an open-door policy. In fact, there was an article on the WCTV website that addressed this issue and is pasted below. Chief DeLeo appears to be a very intelligent individual and very self-confident in his actions and decisions. Our conversation lasted over 25 minutes and I felt he was definitely listening to what I was saying. During the first five minutes of our conversation, we spoke about my particular situation in the way I was treated by Officer Thompson. I expressed to him that I didn't believe it was an officer's right to sway a report that, in my opinion, had an outcome on the trial not to mention the fact that the officer didn't show up. At approximately 2:40 that same day, I received a call from Officer Thompson who apologized for not showing up for the hearing. She gave the excuse that she had entered the wrong date on her calendar. I told Officer Thompson that unfortunately, there was nothing to be done about my situation now, but asked her to promise me that if while she is out on patrol when she sees a vehicle turn right on red and not yielding to the pedestrian as the law instructs, would she please either issue a warning or write a ticket. She responded that she would do her best. I feel confident that Chief DeLeo will look into the situation further and take corrective actions with this officer. I then turned the conversation to my main purpose for wanting to talk to the Chief, which is the vehicle/pedestrian safety issue in Tallahassee/Leon County. Chief DeLeo made it very clear that some of the things he was going to say, I would probably not like but he was not going to lie and say he could or would do something that he could not do. The two issues that we discussed were the Vehicle/Pedestrian Safety issue and White Cane Safety law enforcement by the police department. Unfortunately, the problem is that the police department does not have the manpower or money to assign officers to monitor intersections for violations of drivers who fail to yield to pedestrians. This is similar to the situation that we have with Dial-A-Ride and the added burden because of decentralization of the bus system. I tried to offer several suggestions for solutions to this problem. My first offered solution was to make attempts to get the penalty for failure to yield to pedestrians and the White Cane Safety law increased. It was my thinking that if we could get the legislature to do this, the additional revenue could be distributed directly to the police departments to fund additional officers to address the violations. Chief DeLeo explained that the police department only receives from $2 - $5 of the actual fine, and if it is thrown out of court, they don't receive anything. In most cases, when the fines are increased, none of the additional funds actually go to the police department. There are several agencies that revenues from fines are distributed among. I next suggested that we get a group of citizens to go before the City Commission and request 4 - 6 additional police officers be hired to handle vehicle/pedestrian violations. Chief DeLeo said that would not be enough officers to handle the situation. He gave an example of the noise ordinance as a point of information. The City Commission is currently dealing with the noise ordinance that if passed, will place a large burden on the police department. For example, if they had 700 additional calls it would be an enormous expense to the city in man-hours and equipment. It didn't seem like I was making much progress, so I approached the possibility of a special event to promote public awareness and education. I explained to Chief DeLeo that in the past, the Florida Council of the Blind has attempted to get police officers involved on more than one occasion, on national White Cane Day to stop violators and issue either warnings or tickets. I explained that the police department was unwilling to do this. He immediately told me that basically, that was then and this is now. He indicated that any organization who wants to have a special event may send him a letter of request one month prior to the event and the police department will be willing to work with that organization by sending press releases to the media, and in our situation, coordinate our efforts with the FSU police department. Since we were talking the white Cane law at the time, I explained to him that there was a national White Cane day (October 15 th ), a long way from now. We then talked about his dealing with the vehicle/pedestrian safety issue. Here again, he is willing to assist us with a special event. I did get the impression that a request from a particular organization or citizens group would receive more action than if it was something I individually wanted to do. It is my recommendation that we form a group of citizens and any other organizations that would support this cause and take Chief DeLeo at his word. At some point during the conversation, in trying to help him understand my point, I said, unless you've been hit by a vehicle and haven't had to deal with the resulting trauma, you can't understand. He responded that he had, in fact been hit by a vehicle. I think at this point, we need to organize to determine what we want to accomplish, and who will take the initiative to get the ball rolling. I welcome responses and suggestions and most of all, I welcome advocates who will be willing to follow through and stand up for our basic right to walk the streets of Tallahassee/Leon County safely. Robert January 24, 2014 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.