Fort Myers chief: Police, community must ’embrace’ scathing audit

FORT MYERS, Fla. The Fort Myers Police Department has work to do in the wake of a unflattering audit, Chief Derrick Diggs acknowledged Thursday.

But the department is nonetheless headed in the right direction, Diggs said in a radio interview with WGCU. The chief insisted he’s seriously considering the 32 recommendations the report proposes as fixes for the drug planting, tipping off of drug dealers and lack of training — among other issues — the report details. Still, he urged the community not to make sweeping conclusions about members of the force.

“Don’t paint this broad brush on all the officers of Fort Myers Police Department because of what’s coming in this report,” Diggs said. “Yes, the report is frustrating to see. Yes, I have strong concerns about the report. But the men and women of the police department are doing a good job at protecting our citizens.”

A gang suppression unit the department created shortly after Diggs took over as chief in August “prevented probably about five mass shooting incidents” in a two-month span, Diggs said in November. The chief initiated a series of community outreach sessions designed to improve the department’s relationship with residents.

“We are making great process in building that trust, and in turn that is being reflected in the city in this community,” Diggs said Thursday.

The department has a long way to go, Diggs conceded. Acceptance of the report’s findings is key for the department and the community to move forward toward solutions, he said.

“If we all embrace this report, not only as a police department, but as a community, and embrace that, the police department can accomplish all these recommendations.
We’re gonna be a safer and a better city for it,” Diggs said.

An unprecedented effort to reach out to youth in the community is forthcoming, the chief said, as are steps to modernize the force.

“We gotta basically police our community in the way police departments across the country are doing in the 21st Century,” Diggs said.

As the fallout from last week’s release of the report continues to cast a harsh light on the department, Diggs tried to shift focus to what happens next.

“If I waste my time thinking about out how we got to where we got, then I’ll never get forward,” Diggs said.

 

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