Turnout low for NAACP forum on Fort Myers police

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FORT MYERS, Fla. The NAACP invited community members to ask Fort Myers officials Monday about the goals of the city’s police department and the black community.

But there were more police officers, who were required to attend, than members of the public among the few dozen who showed up for the NAACP Supports FMPD/Law Enforcement Town Hall.

Chief Derrick Diggs, who’s made community outreach one of his primary focuses since taking over the job in August, nonetheless called the forum at Dunbar High School successful.

“Any time we can go and meet the community, talk to the community, get involved with the community, that’s a success,” Diggs said.

Some of the few who attended said they see racial inequality in the police department, which was the subject of a scathing audit released in February.

“Not only are they discriminating against the community, the Freeh report detailed how black and minority officers are treated differently from their white colleagues in their own agency,” community activist Anthony Thomas said. “So you can put sugar on top of this manure, but it’s still manure.”

The audit, conducted by Freeh Group International Solutions, LLC., a Delaware-based risk management firm hired by the city to review the department, recommended steps be taken to improve community engagement.

Diggs, who began a series of outreach programs months before the audit’s release, contends his officers are professionals trained to be sensitive and treat everyone equally.

“Our officers can recognize if we’re not communicating the way we need to communicate,” Diggs said.

City officials say they’re working to make it easier for people to file complaints against the police department. Only two were brought forward Monday.

Shirley Chapman, first vice president and education chair of the Lee County NAACP, said she’s noticed progress.

“I see them (police officers) in the community more often without having to be called, and they seem to be in a friendlier nature,” Chapman said.

This story is the latest in WINK News’ continuing series about the FMPD audit.


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