Community, police attend Fort Myers forum focused on ‘bridging the gap’

Published: April 29, 2021 11:05 PM EDT
Updated: April 29, 2021 11:31 PM EDT

A mother organized a meeting to help children understand what to do and how to act if a police officer or sheriff’s deputy ever pulls them over.

Community members gathered with Fort Myers police officers for a forum at S.T.A.R.S. Complex in Fort Myers Thursday. Police protocols and personal rights were topics during discussion focused on “bridging the gap.”

The group covered a variety of topics with police that included learning their rights when they’re stopped, to police protocols with someone in a mental health crisis.

The forum was also about working to take a step toward rebuilding trust between community members and police, asking tough questions and getting honest answers.

Fort Myers mother Shenika James organized the forum, sparked by her worry that one day her 19-year-old son could be profiled by law enforcement officers, such as when he’s driving.

James said she knew she wasn’t the only mother harboring that fear.

“May it never happen here locally,” James said. “May we never have a parent have to go through what we see publicly. I’m not only doing this for my family and for my son, but for the entire community.”

Also discussed was how to work together as a community with police being a part of it.

Everyone who attended the meeting left on the same page: That there is a long way to go to bridge the gap between the community and police, but being open and willing to have these tough conversations is a start.

“We want to see more of that,” Jacquelyn McMiller said. “We welcome law enforcement”