Fort Myers councilwoman wants more teeth for city’s police review board

FORT MYERS, Fla. Councilwoman Terolyn Watson, inspired by a WINK News report, is calling for more reforms of the Fort Myers Police Department from within city council chambers.

Watson on Friday announced her intention to request a roll call vote during the April 17 city council meeting to turn the city’s Citizens Police Review Board into a Civilian Investigative Panel.

It is the second time in recent weeks Watson has requested a roll call vote regarding the department.

The board, as advisers to the police chief, reviews unsworn citizen complaints and closed department investigations, including use of deadly force, instances where police action results in death or serious injury, and complaints referred to the board by the police chief, city manager or city council. Board members, who also review department policies and procedures regarding use of force and officer conduct, are limited to offering recommendations to city leaders.

Miami is one of a number of cities with a civilian investigative panel, which voters approved in 2001 following a series of scandals and deadly shootings involving Miami officers. The panel, independent of the police department, also reviews department policies and citizen complaints.

While Miami’s panel can subpoena others and conduct police misconduct investigations, its judgement powers are also limited to offering recommendations to the police department and city manager.

It was not immediately known how Fort Myers’ proposed investigative panel would differ from its current review board. Watson did not immediately return a request for comment late Friday afternoon.

Watson, in a statement, cited a March 22 story detailing the department’s execution of one out of 12 immediate recommendations outlined in a report alleging corruption, inefficiency and other challenges limiting the department’s ability to solve crimes.

Watson requested a roll call vote during the April 4 city council meeting to request a Department of Justice investigation into the police department. The unanimous favorable vote followed a formal request from City Manager Saeed Kazemi and marked the second time federal authorities were asked to investigate the department.

This story is the latest in WINK News’ continuing series about the FMPD audit.