FMPD believes community policing is the gateway to regaining trust
Police departments nationwide and locally are working to build trust among the people they work to protect. The big question: Is it working?
Part of the Freeh Report on Fort Myers Police Department focuses on how FMPD is making strides to build community outreach. Part of the reason is to gain trust and ultimately to prevent crime.
Fort Myers police officers are working toward community trust, and they believe community policing — getting out of the car and getting in front of the people — is the way to build it.
“Every citizen has a right, and they don’t have the right to be victims,” said Officer Jimmy Hernandez with FMPD. “We want to gain their trust, so they know we are here to help.”
Helping people is Hernandez’s passion.
“The officers are around, and they talk to people,” said John Lewis Jr., a local business owner. “They learn them and then we learn them, you know. So that’s a great thing. It takes away a lot of animosity.”
FMPD Officer Laura Marchena makes it a point to show up all around town and make herself known.
“The businesses, the housing areas, we go out there, talk to the kids, go to the schools, that type of stuff,” Marchena said.
Some community members may be wary at first before getting to know their local officer, but then it turns into a beautiful friendship.
“So, it’s a little odd, we didn’t know how it would be,” said Tyna Swingler, a local business owner. “We got to know her, and it’s been ever since a really good relationship … There’s a certain respect that we have.”
Officer Hernandez has been both a road officer and community policing officer. Road officers respond to crime, and community policing involves preventing crime.
Preventing crime is everything for Police Chief Derrick Diggs.
“Community policing is ingrained in everything we do in this police department,” Diggs said. “We really can’t protect this community unless we have the support of this community.”
It’s hard to say if community policing is helping reduce crime; although, crime in Fort Myers is currently trending down. FMPD can’t confirm it’s due to community policing, but they believe it is. However, there are no current studies that confirm one way or the other.
Community support of police departments is instrumental for the efforts that involve solving cases
“We need their help,” Hernandez said. “Without their help, we can’t solve cases.”
And that means forging relationships that span generations.
“We feel really good that if something was to happen, knock on wood, that we would have support,” Swingler said.