All the Fort Myers City Council members are about to spend time reading a book on policing written by a local expert.
During the city’s Monday meeting, City Manager Saeed Kazemi confirmed he would order “The State of American Policing” by Dr. David Thomas, a professor at FGCU and retired law enforcement author who has a Ph.D. in forensic psychology.
That was one of the recommendations discussed at the end of the regular council meeting, which focused on police reform in Fort Myers.
We spoke to Thomas Tuesday who served in police departments across the nation for 20 years. He says the book is based on his own experiences and research. Now, he is hoping it will spark meaningful discussions on reform here in Fort Myers and nationwide.
The book started out as a way for Dr. Thomas to speak out about the problems in policing he witnessed.
“It was out of my frustration as a trainer and out of my frustration as an officer,” Thomas said.
Now, it’s turned into a potential centerpiece for a powerful discussion with the Fort Myers City Council.
“I would ask that you purchase this book for each council member,” said Councilman Johnny Streets, who is a retired police officer who has experience with FMPD.
Thomas’ book addresses the relationship between minorities and the police and breaks down the decision-making process for law enforcement. It also features an analysis on Fort Myers Police Department’s past.
“People are listening,” Thomas said. “So, if they listen and read, then maybe it will help facilitate some discussion and change.”
President Donald Trump signed an executive order Tuesday that bans choke holds, except when an officer’s life is at risk. It also establishes a national database of police officers with a history of using excessive force. Members of the community and local law enforcement say it’s a step in the right direction.
“I would consider it a step forward, absolutely,” said Chantel Rhodes, who is a peaceful protester in Lee County.
“From what I’ve read so far, it appears to be very positive,” said
Thomas told us that he thinks defunding the police is not the answer because it could take away important resources such as body cameras and training.
In terms of FMPD, he told us he thinks they are on the right track toward resolving internal issues, and he hopes to see them move toward facilitating more conversations with the community.
But Thomas says it’s all been said before, and the real change in policing will start with local officers building relationships with the communities they serve.
“You really have to have those interactive meetings to kind of figure out where do you go from here,” Thomas said. “Without that, policing stays the same and the community stays the same.”