Fort Myers Police Department is working to better communicate with community members. The police department hopes training will improve its transparency in lieu of recent past issues that brought police under public scrutiny.
For Fort Myers police, standard operating procedures include working the crime scene and offering little information to neighbors and reporters.
But Friday, FMPD officers conducted mock interviews to improve how they put out information. This will help officers to be more open about a scene when it’s possible. This way, it will help to not leave neighbors worried and give a clear account to reporters.
“I think the agency has had a rough relationship with the media for several years,” FMPD Sgt. Jason Pate said to WINK News.
And talking to the local media is a means for reaching all those citizens who Fort Myers police serve on a daily basis. So it supports their goal to get people to see officers through a different lens in hopes of building trust.
“I think that they will become more and more comfortable with the agency and reach out and provide information,” Pate said.
This policy change comes three years after the Freeh Group report called out FMPD for its divide with the community it serves. As a result, witnesses to crimes rarely came forward.
“So, if the police department is doing a good job of keeping them informed,” said Laura McElroy. “And they are much more likely to get involved, and support their police department, and help them with the flow of information to be able, to prevent crimes, to be able to reduce crimes.”
Neighbor Henry Allen has lived in the city for close to 20 years. He’s seen the police’s silent treatment. So he looks forward to a more transparent police department.
“If it’s something that needs to be known to the neighborhood or to whoever, they need to let everybody know,” Allen said. “So that everybody knows who to look for what to look for and be more protective of themselves.”