FMPD union calling for internal affairs change

Reporter: Peter Fleischer
Published: Updated:

Was there an abuse of power and repeated violations of state law?

The Fort Myers police union is calling for the removal of the officer in charge of its internal affairs bureau, claiming she can’t do her job in a credible way.

The process began on June 15, with this letter addressed to Fort Myers interim Police Chief Randall Pepitone. Through their attorney, the union expresses “serious concerns” about internal affairs commander Lieutenant Lesa Breneman, noting “alleged malfeasance, abuse of power and repeated violations of Florida statutes and department policy.”

The letter was sent to Pepitone from Weldon and Rothman, attorneys for the International Union of Police Associations – the union that represents the Fort Myers Police Department. The letter doesn’t name any specific internal affairs cases where Breneman allegedly has a conflict of interest, but it does pull an excerpt from the Jensen Hughes report.

The Jensen Hughes report was an independent audit into a complaint from former FMPD Inspector General Donald Oswald into former FMPD Major William Newhouse, published in April 2022.

Their review found that the internal affairs investigation FMPD conducted was “insufficient” and suggested that FMPD “may request a sworn or certified instructor from a separate agency” when a conflict is identified.

After citing Jensen Hughes, this letter ends by demanding Pepitone “fully remove” Breneman from all pending internal affairs investigations.

Documents show Pepitone responded 15 days later on June 30. In his reply, Pepitone said he will not be removing Breneman – “while neither acknowledging or denying the existence” of investigations into her – Pepitone claims she knows not to “use her position to influence any investigations.”

While WINK News hasn’t seen any further communication between Pepitone and the union’s attorneys, we obtained an email sent from union member and current FMPD Officer David Gaide.

Dated July 7, Gaide emailed every Fort Myers city council member, city manager Marty Lawing and interim Chief Pepitone. He repeats the union’s demand and includes a written response to Pepitone’s decision.

The letter, which is not labeled as an official statement from the union or its attorneys, claims morale at FMPD is “worse than it was prior to the Freeh Report.” It ends by telling Pepitone “this inaction is an embarrassment and a stain on the legacy of Chief Derrick Diggs.” The letter is simply signed “Member of the Executive Board, David Gaide.”

WINK News has reached out to FMPD and Lieutenant Breneman for comment, but we have not heard back at this time. We have also contacted Fort Myers city council about this situation, but no one agreed to speak on camera.

We will update this story as more information becomes available.  

FMPD sent the below statement to WINK News:

“The Fort Myers Police Department has an Internal Affairs process in place to ensure we are holding our officers to the highest possible standard. It is unfortunate that the department’s police union (IUPA Local 6065) is striking out against the system that is necessary for our agency to operate beyond reproach.  This CALEA Accredited system and personnel, that Chief Diggs put in place, has helped strengthen community trust in our organization.  As with any process, there is always room for refinement and we are constantly gathering and reviewing best practices from across the state and country.  The information gathered will allow the next police chief to decide whether changes are necessary.“ – Fort Myers Police Department

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