Editor’s note: Greater Union Life Center in DeLand is sponsoring Black History Month 2021 banners honoring 16 individuals who have made a positive impact on the city of DeLand, and Volusia County. The banners have been installed along Woodland Boulevard in Downtown DeLand, and The Beacon is compiling profiles of the individuals.
William Anderson, DeLand’s first Black police chief, joined the city’s force after 20 years as a commander with the Daytona Beach Police Department.
Anderson took the reins in DeLand in August 1999. In addition to being the first Black to hold the top-cop job, he was also the first police chief since Richard Slaughter and, before him, his father, Bill Slaughter. Between the two, the Slaughters had controlled the department for more than 70 years.
Anderson’s almost three-year tenure was a rocky one. He took over in the midst of a botched prostitution sting by the department, where officers had apparently disrobed and were massaged by suspected prostitutes.
Scandals in the force continued, including one in which Anderson disciplined 19 officers for viewing violent imagery online on Police Department computers.
His style chafed some in the department, and the police force overwhelmingly voted to join the Teamsters Union, a blow for city management.
By 2002, the series of scandals, allegations of low morale and a managerial style described as dictatorial were causing tumult in the city. At one point, Anderson was accused of reverse racism, and one city commissioner (who also happened to be the wife of a police officer) called for Anderson’s resignation.
When the dust finally settled — and Anderson resigned, in early December 2002 — there was little consensus about what had happened. To some, Anderson was a bad manager. To others, he had simply been tasked with making big changes to a department that resisted him.
Ultimately, during Anderson’s tenure, DeLand’s crime rate fell, and the DeLand Police Department, and its advisory boards were diversified by Anderson, who oversaw the hiring of a number of minorities.
Anderson did not respond to The Beacon’s efforts to contact him.