Assistant Chief of Police Rick Taylor will retire Feb. 26 after a 25-year Lakeland Police Department career. He’s landed a job as a captain with the campus police at the University of Florida in Gainesville.
No, he’s never been a Gators fan, but said he’s one now. “I’ll miss you all but I won’t be too far if anyone needs me … Go Gators!” he wrote on a Facebook post.
Taylor, 48, and LPD Chief Ruben Garcia agreed that their relationship was solid. Taylor said he just wanted a change, a place with different ways of doing things, different responsibilities and different terrain after so many years.
“I got to do almost every job at LPD,” Taylor said. About the only job at the police station that Taylor didn’t do was full chief.
In his current job, Taylor oversees LPD’s patrol division. At the smaller University Police Department, he will supervise the Community Services Unit, which includes police training and professional standards.
There’s no word yet on who will replace Taylor at LPD or whether duties will be reshuffled.
Taylor said he was proud to be one of the few police administrators who got to leave his job on his own terms. “It was just too good an opportunity to pass up,” he said.
Garcia said Taylor has been extremely valuable to the department. He said Taylor is “a straight-laced soldier.”
What makes Taylor different from other brass at LPD, Garcia said, “is that he brings a strong national perspective and keeps up with national trends.”
Fellow Assistant LPD Chief Hans Lehman agreed with Garcia that Taylor has been an asset to the department. “He’s a progressive thinker who is committed to community-oriented policing,” Lehman said. “He embraces it.”
Taylor said he will always remember his time with the award-winning LPD swat team, which in 2000 won its first of many significant world, regional and state competitions.
What he’d like to forget, Taylor said, is too much sitting. He said he worked behind a desk and attended many meetings in conference rooms once he got promoted to high-paying LPD jobs.
He said police officers on the streets directly help people and while top administrators also help — “It’s just different” and takes getting used to, even now.
Taylor said that he rides with patrol officers as much as he can and volunteers to work patrol during stretches of holiday weekends so officers can be with their families.
Rick credits his wife Billie, a former LPD lieutenant, with being the rock of the family.
Rick and Billie Taylor have four children; a daughter who is a senior in high school, a 14-year old son and two grown sons. He said the timing for moving the two younger kids north is good and they’re excited about it.
Taylor is passionate about children, not just his own. He said mentoring children at the Dream Center and in makeshift houses in low-income areas was very satisfying.
And Taylor was good at it, City Commissioner Phillip Walker said.
“Rick helped a lot of kids in the Police Athletic League.” Walker said. “He cared about what he was doing.”
Mayor Bill Mutz said he wishes the best for Rick and Billie Taylor. “Rick did a great job for Lakeland,” Mutz said. “He’s very competent, well liked, and a problem solver with good discretion. He’ll do a good job wherever he goes.”