FMPD Chief Diggs says community involvement imperative for success

Four years on the job, four years of reduced crime — FMPD Chief Derrick Diggs likes the numbers, but believes they could be even better, and the City of Fort Myers could be even safer. And the chief says one of the key factors is the level of community involvement.

That’s Part 2 of what Diggs spoke about with WINK News in his rare one-on-one interview recently with Rich Kolko, Safety & Security Specialist.

Diggs clearly knows what he wants from his officers. He also knows what he needs from the people they protect and serve. And, if he gets it, he’s confident Fort Myers will be an even better place to live and work.

Diggs learned how to be a police officer by walking the beat, getting to know people and letting them get to know him.

“I was a street officer. I was a very, very aggressive street officer, young, ambitious,” Diggs told WINK News. “We had guys like me who wanted to work the marginal communities, the tough communities, protect the community. But we did it fairly; we did it professionally.”

And, as a chief in Fort Myers, that’s how he wants his officers to work.

“Police work is a very stressful job … We’ve got to always remember, no matter what we do, we have to work the community,” Diggs said. “I’m talking about the good folks. I’m talking about the folks that want to make sure they live in a safe community.”

But Diggs believes community policing will only work if and when the community gets involved, especially when it comes to solving major crimes.

“If you don’t have citizens in neighborhoods that don’t want to work with police, that don’t want to report crime, that don’t want to show up … that don’t want to let us know what’s going on in the community, it’s going to be very, very difficult and very, very challenging,” Diggs said.

The FMPD chief says he agrees with the call for more help for more people, but he does not want to see funding cut from his police department or law enforcement nationwide.

“The homelessness, the hunger, affordable housing, opioid abuse, drug trafficking, violent gangs, mental health — you start addressing these things that are tearing down the fabric of these communities,” Digg said. “You are always going to have crime out there.”

“The hardest thing to happen in policing is changing the culture of police department and police community relations,” Diggs said. “And, in a city where policing, according to certain folks, there’s been bad relationship between the community and police for over 40 years. You are not going to change that in 3, 5, 10 years. It’s going to take time. But that doesn’t mean we are not trying.”

Over the decades, the chief believes he’s set an example for up-and-coming officers. We asked Diggs if he believes he is a role model.

“I’ll let the young officers and the young African American officers make that determination,” he said. “We had a community meeting the other day, and the first question from a community leader was, ‘How do you feel about yourself, and how do you feel because of what’s going on, how do you feel about it, about your relation to that?’ And I told that community member, ‘I feel great.’”

Diggs stressed community relations.

Programs Chief Derrick Diggs and Fort Myers Police Department have in pace include:

  • Police athletic league
  • Shop with a cop
  • Respect for law camp
  • Explorer program
  • Young leaders educating others

Diggs knows he must earn the trust of people he serves and knows that will take time.

Reporter:Rich Kolko
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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