A Fort Myers councilman wants to act now when it comes to police reform.
Johnny Streets is asking the city council to put the topic on next week’s meeting agenda. This comes after the Minneapolis City Council pledged to dismantle their police department following protests over the death of George Floyd.
There are two former police officers on Fort Myers City Council. Kevin Anderson said cutting the police budget is counterproductive, but Streets said he wants everything on the table because he believes now is the right time for reform.
Streets said that as a child, he got the talk that many boys and girls who look like him got.
“‘Don’t be acting like a fool and embarrassing yourself or us because those policemen will kill you.’ That was the conversation. So here’s the thing: We can get you out of jail but we can’t get you out of the grave,” Streets said.
He grew up to be a police officer in Fort Myers during a time when a black man in uniform wasn’t always welcome or treated as an equal.
“When I came to work in 1972-73 and got ready to go out on the street in order to protect people, I had to take a certain car because the newer cars were not allowed in the black community.”
As a city councilman, Streets said Fort Myers is making progress, in part because of the Freeh report, which exposed the lack of trust the community has for its officers.
Streets said he has been vocal for years about corruption and coverups, but he isn’t satisfied. That prompted a memo calling on city leaders to address police reform and racism now.
“Can we redirect some funding? And here’s an example: Can we spend less money on firearms training as opposed to mental health training for officers? Whether that be in the academy or in the department, but we also have to deal with this thing called the system that creates these problems and to deal with the system, you need to deal with the unions.”
Streets believes unions have too much power because sometimes they make it difficult to get rid of officers with questionable histories.
“Not long ago some people were dismissed from the department. The State Attorney’s Office said they had no trust in them when it came to particular cases. So what happened to them? Well, hell, they went down the street 25 miles and got a job,” he said.
Streets also said there needs to be a strict recruitment process and recruiting officers from within should be a top priority.
“Most of the time when you hire from your community, you will get the best that the person has to offer. Why? Because they want to make a difference,” he said.
When asked what else he would like to see changed, Streets said we need to invest in “affordable housing, we have homeless people, all those things will be brought to the table.”
The City of Fort Myers on Monday afternoon tweeted out a graphic with the hashtag 8CantWait. The city said FMPD already bans chokeholds, strangleholds and other actions that help decrease police violence by 72 percent.