Dylan Olive | Dec. 2
The Lakeland Police Department announced at the Nov. 7 City Commision meeting that Sammy Taylor Jr. would be replacing Police Chief Ruben Garcia on Dec. 1, along with other promotions in the department.
The Lakeland Police Department hired Taylor, 60, in Feb. 1989 – 33 years working in the Lakeland police force, and 34 total years working in law enforcement. In 1997, Taylor was promoted to Sergeant, where he supervised officers in the Uniform Control Division and the Criminal Investigations Division, according to City Manager Shawn Sherrouse. In 2002, Taylor rose to Lieutenant, and became Captain in 2015. In 2019, he became the Assistant Chief and stayed there until his recent promotion to Chief.
Taylor graduated from high school from Evangel Christian School in May, 1980. He first worked as a bagboy at Publix, then secured a part-time job working at the United Parcel Service, while there, he trained through the law enforcement academy. His job at UPS turned full-time when he accepted a management position in Clearwater, Fl to work as an operations manager.
A late night delivering packages on Christmas Eve, Taylor’s wife and 2-year-old daughter at the time were waiting for him to come home, which is when he ultimately decided to enter law enforcement like his father.
Taylor is following in his father’s footsteps, Sam Taylor Sr., who started out as a patrol deputy and worked his way up to major in the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, retiring with a 39-year career. After retiring from the PCSO, Grady Judd, the Polk County Sheriff recommended Taylorr as the Police Chief in other cities: Haines City, Auburndale and Davenport in the mid-1990s. Taylor worked as the Interim Chief of more than six agencies, until a permanent replacement was found, but all of the agencies wanted to hire Taylor.
One character trait that swayed Lakeland City Manager Shawn Sherrhouse to hire Taylor Jr. is displayed in a case that took place on April 24,1990. Taylor Jr. was a 28-year-old officer when he and his partner were called into a home at dusk where a couple was fighting. After arriving, the wife fled the house and the husband went out the back door with two handguns. Taylor and his partner then went to the back of the house, where the man was ducked behind a car.
“When he saw me, he stopped running and he stood up and pointed the gun at me and I yelled at him to drop the gun. He actually threw the gun down and put his hands up … He surprised me because I thought we were getting ready to go right there. We would have, but he decided to throw the gun down,” Taylor said when recounting the event to LkldNow.
The pair received a commendation at the time that showcased their “exercise of safety and control in a situation in which they could have opened fire on the suspect.”
“It’s very important to me that we continue to push community policing and count that as a touch of what we do – excellence, transparent accountability, all those things are very important,” Taylor said at the City Commission meeting.
Another skill that is attributed to choosing Taylor is his strong organizational skills, which can be seen in his spotless office. Taylor’s character has also been praised in his performance reviews, according to LkldNow: “a master of communication with people of all walks of life,” “masterful at planning and executing a project,” “displays self-confidence, authority and enthusiasm” and “visionary, trusted leader” are all quotes directly from his reviews.
“After 33 years of service, (Assistant Chief of Police) Taylor remains an incredible asset to the city of Lakeland, the citizens and the members he leads in the department,” Current Chief, Garcia, wrote on March 17. “He is highly trained and educated to make the next step in the agency and has the respect of his peers, troops and myself.”
At the Commision Meeting, it was also announced that Cap. Marvin Tarver will be stepping into the position of Assistant Chief on Dec. 4, filling Taylor’s role. Lt. Cheryl Kimball will be stepping into Tarver’s role of Captain, also in December.
“The community has always been supportive and continue to be supportive, we love the community, they love us, and there’s hardly a day that goes by when we don’t get a phone call, get posted in a restaurant, or get offered to by us a meal, or shake hands and tell us that we appreciate what you guys are doing. It’s not that way in the rest of the world, but it is here in Lakeland,” Taylor concluded in his speech.