Pensacola’s next police chief will be Eric Randall.
Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson announced he had selected Randall as the next chief during his Monday morning press conference.
Randall is currently assistant chief in Newport News, Virginia, and a native of Pensacola. He is also the commander of the department’s investigations bureau.
Randall has worked his entire career at the Newport News Police Department, starting as an auxiliary officer in 1998. He has a master’s and bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Saint Leo University.
Randall was selected from three finalists after a public forum and public interviews with the mayor and city officials.
“The question came down to who was right for us,” Robinson said.
Randall joined the U.S. Navy after graduating high school in Pensacola in 1991 and when he got out of the Navy, joined the Newport News Police Department in 1998.
“What greater honor, what greater duty is (there than) to come back home and serve the community that I grew up in,” Randall said at the public forum when asked why he wanted to be PPD chief. “My entire family still lives here in the area of Pensacola. So I have a vested interest in the success of this community.”
Robinson credited Randall’s experience in embracing new technology to improve the police department as a factor in his selection, but the mayor also said Randall had a passion for the job.
“He may not have been as polished as some of the people but what I liked is he had heart,” Robinson said. “And you can’t teach heart, and you can’t teach passion. So he had those things. He also probably was the biggest leader in figuring out how to use technology to make it better for us to be able to police that makes it safer for our police and safer for our citizens.”
Robinson said another factor was Randall’s personal connection to the city.
“There’s been a lot of talk about implicit bias, and I’ve admitted (to) y’all several times in here, I know I have an implicit bias, and that’s towards people who are from Northwest Florida,” Robinson said.
During the public forum last week, all three candidates said they would support a police advisory committee. Randall went further and said he would support the creation of a panel to review all use-of-force incidents that would be made up of four citizens and four police officers.
Randall said the panel would review all use-of-force incidents on a monthly basis and take a vote declaring if the action followed department policy.
“It’s transparency all around,” Randall said. “This is what 21st century policing and policing reform looks like. It is an inclusive police department, an inclusive environment. But it’s taking the Pensacola Police Department to the next level.”
Robinson said Monday he would defer to the police chief, but added that any committee would have to be an advisory only.
“He’s talking about advisory committees, which I think are great,” Robinson said. “He’s not talking about a committee that’s going to have oversight. Sometimes, again, we get very lost in some of the discussion, but if the police themselves want to have something like that, the chief wants to have something, it’s certainly up to him.”
Randall’s selection will have to be confirmed by the City Council on May 13.
Robinson said he would arrange for individual video calls with council members to meet Randall before the vote, but he said the question before the council was whether to confirm Randall as a chief, not to decide if one of the other candidates was a better selection.
“They don’t vote on that part,” Robinson said. “They’re just simply voting to simply say, is this person a good person, a good fit for us? And I think if you had the chance to sit down with Eric, like I said before, his passion for the job, and his passion for Pensacola come through very loud and clear.”
By: Jim Little