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Will Latchford retires after decades at tribe

Will Latchford in the lobby of his office at the Seminole Police Department in Hollywood on March 21, 2023. (Damon Scott)

HOLLYWOOD – Will Latchford said he clearly remembers the day in 1994 when he drove from Clearwater to Hollywood to interview with the Seminole Tribe to become an officer in the Seminole Police Department (SPD). He was 21-years-old, already graduated from the police academy and volunteering with his father’s police department, when he began to send out job applications to law enforcement agencies across Florida.

After waking up in the predawn hours to make it to a 10 a.m. interview, his vehicle broke down in Sunrise and needed a new alternator. He called to let SPD know the situation, and they said if he arrived before 5 p.m. he could still interview. Latchford made it at 3:30 p.m. and it would change the course of his life.

The next day he had another interview lined up several hours north in Panama City, but the tribe offered him the job that morning.

“One of the things I was engrained with by my family is when someone gives you an opportunity, you embrace it,” Latchford said. “I’d told myself that I’d take the first offer I got.”

Two weeks later he’d begin a 26-year law enforcement career at the tribe. Latchford ascended from a rookie SPD officer to his current position as director of the Public Safety Department. He also spent two years at the Broward County Sheriff’s Office from 2006 to 2008, before returning to the tribe as its police chief. He’s been in law enforcement for 30 years in all – starting with the police academy at age 19.

Law enforcement runs in the family. Latchford’s father, Al Latchford, worked for the New York State Police and retired as a police chief for the city of Port Richey, Florida. His grandfather, George Latchford, worked for the New York City Police Department. Latchford’s oldest son, Brady Osceola Latchford, is a deputy sheriff at the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office in Milton, Florida.

Latchford, 49, announced his retirement March 15, which becomes effective April 15. SPD police chief John Auer is expected to step in as the interim director of Public Safety until a permanent replacement is hired.

Seminole family

Latchford said he’s ready to retire in order to spend more time with his family,  which he admits might sound cliché – but in his case he says it’s anything but.

Latchford and his wife of almost 25 years, tribal member Amy Osceola, have six children – four boys and two girls. Their first grandchild is also on the way. The oldest child is 23 and the youngest is 10.

“I looked at it as an opportunity for me to put time in for the kids,” he said. “The three older boys are excelling to the point where we can’t be any prouder – they live up north. The younger ones need me to be part of their life, not just at the end of the day, and then by the time they get up I’m already at work. So I’m not just passing in the night.”

‘Officer was everything’

Latchford’s long career has given him a front row seat to the tribe’s evolution. When he showed up for his first day of work in 1994, there were no handheld radios and he had to bring his own firearm. There wasn’t a Fire-Rescue or Emergency Management department.

“The police officer was really everything,” he said. “They were not only the police officer but they were the ambulance, too. We’d put people in the back of the police car and drive them to a hospital.”

Latchford said the departments have improved so much that outside law enforcement agencies now look to the tribe as a model for what a Public Safety program can become.

“The organization has come so far,” he said. “The resources when I started were minimal. The level of concierge service we now provide is what separates us from other agencies – it’s what makes us special.”

Latchford has had just about all the top tier law enforcement and public safety training and education one could acquire, including graduating from the FBI National Academy.

“To help use that training to grow Public Safety for the Seminole Tribe, not many people can say that,” he said. “So when I walk out of here I can hold my head up high. The only thing anyone can ask of anybody is: ‘when you leave are you leaving it better than where you found it?’ I can confidently, without ego, say I’m leaving it better than the way I found it, and that was really my goal.”

Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at