FMPD chief doesn’t agree with defunding police; expert says reform starts with discussion

Protesters are calling for police reform in Southwest Florida. While police are making some changes, there are two things a chief says won’t happen. We also spoke to a law enforcement expert about what needs to happen to move forward.

Chief Derrick Diggs took up his role at Fort Myers Police Department because of failed leadership and corruption.

And FGCU professor David Thomas, a police analyst with a Ph.D. in forensic psychology, told us the problem with police is not race as much as it is police culture. He says changing that starts with conversation.

Protesters continue to take to the streets in the wake of George Floyd’s death. The NAACP is among groups demanding police reform.

FMPD Chief Diggs sees the marches amd hears the calls for change, but he is not on board with some of the ideas protesters have in mind for law enforcement.

“If you think you’re going to eliminate unions or qualified immunity, not going to happen,” Diggs told WINK News. “Defunding police, not going to happen.”

“To make a blanket statement like that is dangerous,” Thomas said. “Because where we are now, it might not happen in the state of Florida. But you turn around and there’s federal legislation that says it’s gone.”

Both Thomas and Diggs have experienced careers in law enforcement for decades.

“The knee on the back of the neck is something I learned when I started policing back in 1978,” Diggs said. “It was normal practice.”

Diggs said that’s not the case in Fort Myers today.

“We don’t tolerate excessive force,” Diggs said. “We ban chokeholds. We don’t use knee holds.”

Experience tells Thomas the protesters have a chance to make real change.

“We’re at a critical point now where everyone’s gotta sit at the table and have this conversation,” Thomas said.

We asked Thomas if he feels police and community have come a long way from tensions of the past in the United States. And he said No.

“Biases are still there,” Thomas said.

So how do we move forward?

“So, when the chief or the sheriff say, ‘That’s enough. You gotta go,’ … We will not tolerate this, and that’s what makes policing fair,” Thomas said.

Thomas also told us protesters need to be careful about what they wish for.

Less funding for police could mean less funding for training, body cameras and community policing. Those are all things that promote transparency within departments.

Reporter:Dannielle Garcia
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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