CRESTVIEW — Gaining more resident feedback and fostering greater transparency are among Tony Taylor's plans as the Hub City's new police chief, he said during a visit to the Crestview News Bulletin office.
"We will put the bad things in the rearview mirror and move forward," he said, referencing turmoil that surrounded the police department following the termination of former Chief Brian Mitchell and Maj. Joseph Floyd. The terminations followed a state attorney's office investigation on racketeering charges.
"For us to move forward, especially with what was going on .... we need to reach out to the community," Taylor said.
One way to do that, he said, is by opening communication to residents, inviting them to stop by the station to talk with him. Additionally, he wants to set up regular town hall meetings to allow for greater transparency.
"In order for us to be successful, we have to be in cooperation with the community," he said.
"I'm looking forward to jumping in with both feet and getting involved."
Taylor, who said he was surprised by the department’s growth in 20 years, plans to set the bar high.
"We are going to be the premiere agency for miles around," he said, adding that he would review the department’s pay scales and aim to make them compatible with that of nearby state law-enforcement agencies.
Taylorhas spent most of his 35-year law enforcement career with the Fort Walton Beach police department. He started with the department in 1978 as an auxiliary police officer and jumped up the ranks from sergeant to captain during his tenure.
He decided to retire from full-time police work in 2010.
"During that particular time, they had offered the final incentives for retirement they could offer," Taylor said. "The next step was cutting positions and sending people home. I didn't want to see anyone go home." However, he continued to serve as a consultant.
Last year, Taylor ran against Larry Ashley for Okaloosa County sheriff. He said that experience won't affect the agencies’ working relationship, and said he respects the voters’ choice.
"We have some philosophical differences," Taylor said, contrasting him and Ashley. "But he runs his department and I will run mine."
Taylormentioned that he was interested in reconstituting the street crimes unit. The unit was suspended following the removal of Joseph Floyd, who was the unit commander.
"The street crimes unit is good on a lot of different levels," Taylor said. "You can target them for any specific crime problems, they are flexible."
"My policy on use of force is that we use only the absolute force that is necessary to affect our lawful objectives," Taylor said. "After that we will restore the dignity and respect."
Since March, interim chief Kenneth Bundrick had helmed the department. Along with Taylor, Bundrick was among the top four finalists for the position.
In a previous interview, Bundrick said that he would remain with the department and planned to support the new chief.