A push for change in community policing is coming after Derek Chauvin’s guilty verdict in the murder of George Floyd.
But will it have an effect on policing in Southwest Florida?
Black communities celebrated the decision by a jury to convict on all three counts on Tuesday. But while they are relieved by the verdict, there is also hope this means more police reform.
While police departments reflect on the jury’s decision, most that spoke to WINK News agreed what happened to 46-year-old Floyd hurt all police officers and should not happen again.
“I think there’s kind of a little relief with some law enforcement now that hopefully, this is behind us,” said Sheriff Bill Prummelll of the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office.
Fort Myers Councilman Johnny Streets, a retired Fort Myers police officer, said it was a good day for law enforcement to say this is not what we do.
“This is not who we are,” Streets said.
FGCU justice studies Professor David Thomas said he doesn’t think the verdict changes the job for police officers out on the streets.
“I think officers, to some respect, may second-guess themselves,” said Thomas, also a retired police officer. “My thing is that if you do the right thing, it should never be an issue.”
Prummell also said he isn’t sure it will impact policing.
“I think his actions kind of gave a big black eye to us nationwide,” Prummell said.
But Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson, also a retired Fort Myers police officer, said it will change policing in hopefully, “a positive way where accountability will stay in everybody’s mind.”
Anderson also said officers may also be more cautious when it comes to using force.
“They may be just more reluctant when they are in a situation where use of force is warranted,” Anderson said. “That little bit of reluctance may cause them either just to totally back away or to maybe put themselves in harm’s way by not responding the way they are trained to do.”
But all four agreed that improvement is needed. But it won’t happen overnight.
“I think it’s part of the catalyst for change and I think we need to ride this wave out and do the will of the people,” Streets said.
Streets said he plans to get the conversation started next week at a community forum to bridge the gap between police and the people they serve.
“It has to be community members and police department and sheriff’s offices sitting at the table and talking,” Thomas said.
“The Bridging the Gap in our Community” forum will take place at the S.T.A.R.S. Complex, 2980 Edison Avenue, on April 29 at 6 p.m.
The forum will include conversations on what a child should do if they are stopped by police and what proper protocol is for an officer.
Fort Myers Police Department statement
“We will continue to move forward and are grateful to have strong support from our community. There’s always room for improvement, and we will continue to train and adapt accordingly.”