In a scathing 2017 report, Freeh Group’s audit detailed a slew of problems at Fort Myers Police Department. More than two years later, we are looking at what FMPD is doing to move forward from those issues positively.
Freeh Group’s recent report shows Fort Myers Police Department still has ground to cover, including lack of trust among community members. The consulting firm also details lack of communication within the department, meaning different units don’t work well together.
Positively, the recent report credits Police Chief Derrick Diggs for hiring an inspector general at FMPD to hold personnel accountable.
“I think the public’s tired of it,” Fort Myers Councilman Kevin Anderson said. “I’m certainly getting weary with it. It’s frustrating in that it seems like we make a couple of steps forward and then, boom, something like this happens, and it knocks us back several steps.
Anderson, a former Fort Myers police officer, told us now is the time for FMPD to make the right changes to regain public trust.
“These recommendations were made, what, three years ago?” Anderson said. “And I would’ve liked to have seen a little more progress on that.”
People we spoke to said they have seen a positive difference in FMPD’s public presence.
“I was a little worried about the city having my business down here and stuff,” RJ Heineck said. “But, the last few years, it’s actually been cleaned up pretty well.”
“You got to always continue to keep working on the issues and keep trying to make them better,” Bob Crawford said.
No one from FMPD was available to speak to us on camera about the new Freeh report, but Deputy Chief Jeffrey Meyers shared a statement with us regarding the police department and the latest Freeh report:
“The Department continues to embrace the recommendations of the Freeh Group and will continue working diligently to make the Department as effective and efficient as possible. The newly hired internal investigator will use the FGIS report, along with other reports and studies, to assist him in his evaluation of the department and his task of recommending any direction to the chief.”
Among other areas of FMPD that were scrutinized in the recent Freeh report were issues related to drug enforcement and understaffed specialty units. And Meyers also addressed that in the remaining extent of his shared statement:
“FMPD continually evaluates current staffing positions to be sure we are operating in the most effective and efficient manner. Salaries and number of officers hired each fiscal year are determined by the city, and the police department has no control of either.”
Mayor Randy Henderson spoke to us over the phone. He agrees with many of the viewpoints of Councilman Anderson. He hopes FMPD’s new inspector general helps turn the department around both internally and in the eyes of the public.
Anderson told us getting better means getting people to believe in the department and help investigators.
“We still have a lot of incidents where crime isn’t being solved,” Anderson said. “And that takes the cooperation of the public, so it’s important that we’re constantly and continuously trying to build the trust and confidence of the public.”