FORT MYERS, Fla. A concept that emphasizes rehabilitation over punishment is being put in place at the Fort Myers Police Department.
Officers are being trained how to use Restorative Justice, a concept used in at least 60 communities nationwide. The idea is also employed in school systems, including Lee County schools.
The program encourages officers to show offenders how their actions hurt the community instead of simply throwing them in jail. The hope is the lesson cuts down on repeat offenders.
It’s part of an effort from Chief Derrick Diggs to enhance the department’s relationship with the community.
“I recognized very quickly upon taking command of the police department that we need to do something drastic as far as building relationships within the community,” Diggs said.
The department recently completed the first of six phases of its community engagement initiative, which comes amid the backdrop of a scathing investigation into the department alleging corruption and a lack of integrity.
The department this past fall hired Youth and Families in Crisis LLC, a Washington, D.C.-area consulting firm, to help implement the Restorative Justice Program. Travis Loggins Santiago, a representative of the firm, shared his personal experience as he spoke Monday before City Council.
“I’m living testimony that if you allow restoration in your city (and) also in your communities that the young people will have an outlet to change and not look to violence as a key to be heard,” Santiago said.
Diggs also spoke at Monday’s council meeting as city leaders took steps to address crime. The council approved a contract with the University of Cincinnati Research Institute to provide crime analysis and training services to assist with crime prevention in the city.
This story is the latest in WINK News’ continuing series about the FMPD audit.