Fort Myers Councilman wants to discuss disbanding Fort Myers Police Department

A city councilman wants to discuss the possibility of disbanding the Fort Myers Police Department and turning over policing duties to the sheriff’s office instead.

Fred Burson, who represent Ward 5 of the city, credits Fort Myers police Chief Derrick Diggs with much of the improvements at the police department, but now that Diggs has applied for another chief of police job Burson worries the progress could be lost.

Burson is wondering if Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno could keep order.

“With the police chief looking for another job, I thought it might be an opportune time to discuss the possibility of having the sheriff’s department take over the responsibility of policing in the City of Fort Myers,” Burson said.

Burson said he plans to put the topic on the agenda for the next city council meeting, which is scheduled for May 17.

“My phone has been lit up on both sides of the coin. So it’s interesting how important it is to everybody,” Burson said. “And I’m hearing from both sides that think it’s a good idea that we discuss it.”

Burson said a discussion is important but he’s not willing to back the idea until he’s sure of three things: all Fort Myers police officers could get a job at the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, all retirement benefits would stick and the city would save money.

During fiscal year 2020, the City of Fort Myers spent about 40% of its general fund on the police department.

“It’s a substantial portion,” Burson said.

The Fort Myers police union is against it.

“The PBA is not only strongly against turning law enforcement services over to the Sheriff, but we will fight the measure with whatever it takes,” said Matt Sellers, president of the Gulf Coast Police Benevolent Association.

The city has tackled this issue before.

In 2013, Fort Myers voters rejected the idea 69% to 31%.

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office did not return a request for comment.

In a statement, the Fort Myers Police Department said the city has not notified the police about the discussion.

“Our department will continue to focus on our mission of reducing violent crime, lower than the 51 percent reduction already achieved, and engaging with our community without outside distractions,” according to the statement.

Reporter:Sydney Persing
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