Making official what’s been expected for months, Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward on Tuesday formally nominated Tommi Lyter as Pensacola’s next police chief.
Lyter, who currently serves as the city’s assistant chief, would replace David Alexander, the city’s first black chief whom Hayward appointed in 2015. Alexander is contractually obligated to step down by May 14.
Alexander has said publicly said for months that he’d prefer to stay on as chief, but Hayward said in February he would not support extending Alexander’s contract or rehiring him.
At issue is Alexander’s participation in the city’s Deferred Retirement Option Program or DROP, which requires participants to retire five years after enrolling. Alexander says that when he opted into the retirement program in 2012 as assistant chief, he had no expectation of becoming chief and might not have entered DROP if he’d known he would. The DROP program mandates retirement within five years, and city law effectively bars police officers and firefighters from being rehired after retiring, though at least one city council member believes Hayward’s powers as mayor would allow him to keep Alexander on.
In recent months, Alexander’s supporters have been a regular fixture at city council meetings, arguing for Alexander’s contract to be extended. Council members in February unanimously passed a resolution of support for Alexander, expressing the council’s “continued confidence” in Alexander and his “ability to continue as the leader of the Pensacola Police Department.” However, under Pensacola’s mayor-council form of government, the police chief works directly for the mayor, and Hayward has said that while he appreciates Alexander’s service, he plans to move forward with the succession plan put in place in 2015, which calls for Lyter to take over as chief later this month.
A 27-year veteran of the department, Lyter holds a bachelors degree in criminal justice and masters in public administration from Troy State University. Over his career, he’s served with most of the police department’s various units, including patrol, investigations, and neighborhood services, and has served as commander of both the SWAT and dive teams. More recently, Lyter served as the project manager for the department’s body camera program.
City council members will take up Lyter’s nomination at its regular meeting on Thursday, May 11.