A dozen officers were recommended for discipline, and yet barely half actually get a mark on their record.
More than 40 disciplinary actions were recommended for twelve Fort Myers Police officers after a car chase that violated department policy and city law. But a close look at department records shows fewer than 10 of the actions were sustained by the chief.
The initial incident began with a car chase in December 2022. Fort Myers Police paperwork shows officers drove recklessly with no sirens or lights, breaking several traffic laws and violating various department policies.
An internal investigation began in February and is dated April 27, 2023. It produced the recommendation that 12 officers be disciplined, including Interim Chief Randall Pepitone and Captain Victor Medico, a current finalist for the full-time FMPD chief job.
But just because they were recommended for discipline does not mean they were disciplined.
Pepitone’s final action summary claims he “knowingly approved the pursuit report despite being made aware that officers allegedly committed various traffic violations and violated various internal policies while sometimes operating outside their jurisdictional boundaries.”
The document shows Pepitone was recommended counseling and policy review, but Captain Richard Meeks chose not to sustain Pepitone’s discipline, instead recommending “thorough review of general orders.”
That means, technically, the discipline recommended for Pepitone was not upheld. When asked to explain the Final Action Summary documents in general, an FMPD spokesperson confirmed the final reviewer determines discipline.
The same thing happened with Captain Medico. His paperwork claims he “failed to confirm the accuracy and completeness of associated documents and reports.”
Medico was recommended counseling and policy review, but Pepitone chose not to sustain that action, simply checking “not sustained.” Therefore, Medico did not technically face discipline at all.
A review of the investigation shows Pepitone chose not to sustain 31 of 40 recommended disciplinary actions that he signed off on.
That means, of the 12 officers to face discipline for the chase that FMPD command staff admits violated several traffic laws and department policies, only seven actually faced real punishment.
A review of Pepitone’s interview for the investigation sheds light on his decision-making. Documents show he explained in his interview: “I didn’t want to go the formal discipline route. I wanted them talked to.”
Pepitone also adds: “I think I had discretion to handle it this way. It might not have been how it’s always been handled in the past. But like I said earlier, I didn’t ignore it. I didn’t hide it or anything like that.”
Medico provides similar reasoning in his interview, saying he “didn’t believe anything was malicious,” also claiming he preferred an “informal” approach with the younger officers involved.
While the magnitude of this investigation is large, the FMPD policy violations do appear to be minor – none of the recommended discipline was greater than a policy review or counseling.
WINK News has requested interviews with FMPD, including with Interim Chief Pepitone and Captain Medico, to ask about the difference in discipline recommended versus approved, but we have not gotten a response. We will update this story if we hear back.