FORT MYERS, Fla. Two months after a scathing audit detailed Fort Myers police officers blaming state prosecutors and the African-American community for their inability to solve crimes, and days after the Lee County NAACP filed a federal civil rights complaint against the agency, the three sides met behind closed doors on Monday to help mend relations.
NAACP representatives, police chief Derrick Diggs and Stephen Russell, state attorney for the 20th Judicial District, met at police headquarters for a conversation the civil rights organization said was needed for Dunbar residents.
The meeting, which participants did not elaborate on what was discussed, followed a report alleging cronyism, “lack of effective leadership,” corruption and limited resources that damaged the police department’s reputation and morale for years.
More than 200 current and former department employees were interviewed for the audit, which was done at the request of city manager Saeed Kazemi.
“The interviewees described a culture of failure and defeatism and believed that key stakeholders have often resorted to blaming external forces, like the State Attorney’s Office and the minority community, rather than looking critically within the department in an honest effort to identify solutions,” the report said.
Dunbar residents, following the report’s February release, were not surprised by its details.
Monday’s conversation came hours before a city council meeting where councilwoman Terolyn Watson, whose district includes Dunbar, plans to ask for a roll call vote that would turn the city’s Citizens Police Review Board into a body with subpoena powers to investigate alleged officer misconduct.
This story is the latest in WINK News’ continuing series about the FMPD audit.