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CONTACT: Kevin Cook, Director of Communications (863-834-6264)


LAKELAND, FL (December 2, 2014) -- The Lakeland Police Chief Search Advisory Committee met with the seven semifinalist candidates during panel interviews and after the process the group has been narrowed to three finalists that include Lakeland Interim Police Chief Larry Giddens, Brian Harris currently serving on the DeKalb County Police Department as Assistant Chief, and Tony Kirk serving on the Topeka, Kansas Police Department as Deputy Chief.
City Manager Thomas who sat in on the selection committee’s interviews said, “The committee had a tough decision today because of the high quality and credentials of the seven semifinalists, but following the interviews, and comparing the candidates to the ideal candidate profile, they narrowed the field to what they felt were the top three candidates that should advance to the next step of the selection process.”  He added, “I appreciate the hard work the committee has undertaken throughout the process in evaluating the strengths of each candidate and I am supportive of their recommendations regarding the top three finalists for the Police Chief position.”
The City would like to congratulate all the semifinalists for making the initial short list.  Thomas will conduct personal interviews starting tomorrow, Wednesday, December 3rd and will ultimately make the decision on the appointment of the successor Chief of Police later this month.
The following ten individuals were appointed by the City Manager to serve on the Advisory Police Chief Selection Committee:
Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor:  Over the course of her career, Chief Castor built a reputation for working side by side with residents, community leaders, business owners and neighboring law enforcement agencies to reduce crime and improve the quality of life in her community throughout her 30 year career. She was elected the first female president of a police academy class and 25 years later, became the first woman to lead the Tampa Police Department. She serves on the board of the Major City Chiefs Association and is a member of Harvard’s prestigious Executive Session on Policing and Public Safety. 
Mary Smith:  Prior to retiring in 2013, Ms. Smith served as Office Manager for Heartland Intergroup, a non-profit central office for Alcoholics Anonymous serving Polk, Hardee and Highlands Counties. She has been an active community volunteer, serving as Dixieland Historic Neighborhood Association President from 2009-2012; Neighborhood Association Coalition Vice President in 2011; Neighborhood Association Coalition President in 2012; current member of the Dixieland Community Redevelopment Authority and a member of the 2013 Lakeland Police Advisory Commission. 
Reverend Richard Richardson:  Reverend Richardson has a diverse background in both for-profit and not-for-profit corporations. He has worked in senior management positions for Digital Equipment, Polaroid, and General Electric Corporation. He later built on these management skills and along with his wife started United Homes for Children, Inc. a not-for-profit Human Service Agency, serving children within the foster care division of the Massachusetts Department of Social Services. He served on several Commissions under four Governors, including Supreme Court Commission Task force on Juvenile Justice, Department of Human Services Advisory Committee, Department of Youth Services Advisory Committee, and Chaired a Gubernatorial  Human Services Transition Team. Reverend Richardson and his wife have resided in Lakeland since 2003. He is an Ordained Minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church; a member of the Interdenominational Ministers Alliance (IMA) of Lakeland; and serves as a Commissioner of the Lakeland Housing Authority.
Stephanie Colon:  Ms. Colon has been employed in the banking industry for 17 years and currently serves as Assistant Vice President of Business Banking at Community Southern Bank.  She has actively volunteered on numerous civic boards and currently serves as Co-Chair of Emerge Lakeland, (a Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce and United Way of Central Florida Partnership for Young Professionals) and also serves on their Steering and Events Committees.  She was recently recognized as one of the “Polk Emerging Leaders” showcasing young professionals ages 21-42 for their community service.  She is also a recipient of the 2012 Girls Inc., "She Knows Where She's Going” award, Leadership Lakeland Class XXX graduate and Leadership Lakeland Alumni Association, in addition to service with numerous other local boards and organizations. 
Don Brown:  Mr. Brown currently serves as President of the Lakeland Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) as well as the 3rd Vice President of the Florida State Conference of the NAACP.  He also currently serves as a Parent Outreach Coordinator with the Polk County School Board in addition to being a former educator, university recruiter for Bethune-Cookman University and retiree of the U.S Naval Reserve.
Tim Jackson:  Mr. Jackson currently serves as Chairman of the Board for the Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce. Prior to his role as Chairman, he served the Chamber as a member of their Board of Directors, Executive Committee, and Vice-Chair Communications and Public Policy Committees. Tim has worked in the field of Construction Management and Real Estate Development since 1989.  In 2005 he moved to Lakeland and joined NuJak Companies and serves a variety of public sector clients within the construction management and real estate sectors.  He recently served as NuJak’s Project Executive in the partnership with Skanska USA on the construction of Florida’s new 12th public university, Florida Polytechnic University. He has been involved in numerous community organizations including service as Co-Chair of the 2013 Lakeland Police Advisory Commission, in addition to leadership roles with Habitat for Humanity, Lakeland Vision and the Polk Museum of Art.  He is Leadership Lakeland Class XV graduate, and a member of the Leadership Lakeland Alumni Association.
In addition to the above stakeholders, Thomas has also appointed the following City of Lakeland staff members to serve on the Advisory Committee:
Tim McCausland – City Attorney
Tony Delgado – Deputy City Manager
Brad Johnson – Assistant City Manager
Mark Farrington – Human Resources/Civil Service Director


The Lakeland Police Department wants to remind motorists to Click It or Ticket this holiday season. Each year, the Thanksgiving holiday is one of the busiest travel times, millions of people will be traveling to visit with family and friends. What this means is that there will be more vehicles on the roads, and more danger as we travel. It is always important to buckle up, but when there are the additional vehicles on the roads, it is more important than ever. We want everyone to have a happy and safe holiday season; therefore the Lakeland Police Department will join with departments across the state in the Click It or Ticket Safety Belt Enforcement Wave. The enforcement runs from Monday, November 17, 2014 through Sunday, November 30, 2014 at midnight. 

Nationwide, seat belt usage is at an all-time high of 87 percent, but the Click It or Ticket campaign aims to reach that remaining 14 percent. In 2012, there were 10,335 unbuckled occupants killed in crashes—52 percent of all passenger vehicle occupants killed that year. At night, the numbers are even more disturbing. During the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in 2012, law enforcement noted that 69 percent of the passenger vehicle occupants killed at night were unrestrained, as compared to 46 percent during the day. 

The single best thing anyone can do to protect themselves and save lives is to buckle up. It only takes a second!

For more information about traveling safely during Thanksgiving, please visit

Eight Year Old Child Hit by Car


LAKELAND, FL (October 2, 2014)


On October 2, 7:25 a.m., The Lakeland Police Department responded to a pedestrian hit by a vehicle at 3537 Cleveland Heights Blvd. Brianna Rivera, 8 years old, was crossing the roadway walking west and stepped in front of the vehicle at which time she was hit. The vehicle, 2012 Honda Accord, 4dr, driven by Iam Peter Bhisitkul, 85 years old, was southbound  in the inside lane. Bhisitkul stated he never saw Rivera and only heard something strike his vehicle. He then came to a control stop in the median area and got out and observed that Rivera had been hit.


Rivera was transported to Arnold Palmer Hospital as a trauma alert due to a head injury. The last report on Riveras condition is that she is doing well and may be released from hospital care this evening. Bhisitkul was not issued a citation.




LAKELAND, FL (August 29, 2014) - The City of Lakeland just received the Arbitration Award from Barry J. Baroni regarding the termination of former Lakeland Police Department Sergeant Russell (Rusty) Longaberger.  The hearing was conducted on April 16, 2014 under the auspices of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.  The arbitrator denied the grievance outlined by Longaberger.  The report concluded that “It is the Arbitrator’s considered opinion that termination was the appropriate form of discipline and that there was just cause for the termination of Longaberger.”


Lakeland Interim Police Chief Larry Giddens said, “We support the decision made by the arbitrator in this case. The arbitration process was fair and objective and we support the conclusion drawn by the arbitrator.” Arbitrator Baroni concluded that in addition to the loss of community trust that there was consideration regarding the State Attorney’s “Death Letter” which removes a considerable amount of the grievant to continue functioning as a Police Officer within the Department.


City Manager Doug Thomas said, “The arbitration was a very involved process that started in April.  We are pleased that the arbitrator upheld the City’s disciplinary action and denied the grievance.  We are glad to close the disciplinary chapter in this matter and the City of Lakeland can continue to concentrate on moving forward.”

View Arbitration Award From Barry J. Baroni