Crist picks police chief to run DJJ
Gov. Charlie Crist has selected Tallahassee Police Chief Walter McNeil to head the Department of Juvenile Justice. An official announcement is planned for 2 p.m., but McNeil told his staff this morning, Buzz has learned.
He replaces Anthony Schembri, whose efforts to revamp the agency met various controversy, including the boot camp death of 14-year-old Martin Lee Anderson. Tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of the beating incident in Panama City.
“It’s very encouraging news,” said Anderson family attorney Ben Crump. “Walt McNeil is a person who cares deeply about people. I know him to be a good man.”
McNeil, 51, would be the second prominent Democrat in Crist's administration and the highest profile African American. He has been police chief since 1997 and holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Southern Mississippi and a master's in criminal justice from St. Johns University in Louisiana. He is married and has three children, age 30 to 15.
McNeil had applied to become the head of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. He takes a job that was aggressively sought by former state Rep. Gus Barreiro of Miami Beach, who lead the charge to close boot camps.
Photo: City of Tallahassee