Fort Myers Police Department Major William Newhouse retires amid scrutiny

Published: November 4, 2021 12:01 PM EDT
Updated: November 4, 2021 6:17 PM EDT

A high-ranking police official at the center of accusations at the Fort Myers Police Department has retired.

Major William Newhouse retired on Thursday, according to Fort Myers City Councilman Johnny Streets. Streets said he was informed by City Manager Marty Lawing of the decision.

The Fort Myers Police Department released Newhouse’s retirement memo on Thursday afternoon confirming the news.

“The pride I feel having worked closely for decades with our law enforcement professionals is immeasurable,” Newhouse said. “Having spent most of my adult life working for the same organization makes my decision to retire an extremely difficult one, but a decision I have reached after careful consultation with my family.”

Newhouse was accused by the Fort Myers Police Department’s inspector general of ordering a subordinate to mislead city officials about the cost of constructing a new police headquarters at the site of the former News-Press building, at the corner of MLK Boulevard and Fowler Street.

Donald Oswald, the former inspector general, resigned on Friday after he said Fort Myers police Chief Derrick Diggs failed to adequately investigate claims that Newhouse had ordered a lieutenant to keep the rising costs of the new building under wraps. The cost went from about $34 million to between $60 million and $80 million.

Oswald told WINK News Newhouse’s retirement made giving up his own job worth it. He said he feels vindicated.

“He has been part of the old regime, that grew up sort of, I’m going to use the analogy of a battered child,” Oswald said. “The only type of leadership he knows to give is the same type of battered leadership that he received. And there are a lot of people taking a breath of fresh air now that he’s gone.”

Newhouse was cleared by the internal affairs investigation, but Oswald said the investigation was a sham because it was conducted by Newhouse’s subordinate.

Four city councilors, and the mayor, have said they support an outside investigation into what happened.

It’s likely if Lawing doesn’t order one, city council could vote to take a look into the allegations.

Additionally, Councilman Liston Bochette said he would like the city to reject Oswald’s resignation and have him become the city’s inspector general.

Oswald said he chose to make his allegations publicly because he felt it was the only way things would change.

“Otherwise, this was just going to get buried and I felt no one was ever going to see or know about it,” Oswald said. “He was the crux of the problem. And the problem is gone.”

In a statement, the Fort Myers Police Department noted Newhouse was cleared of any wrongdoing.

“However, Major Newhouse has nonetheless chosen to retire in order to avoid distracting from the FMPD’s future success,” FMPD said. “Our department wishes him well in all his future undertakings and thanks him for nearly three decades of service to the City of Fort Myers and all its residents.”

According to FMPD, Newhouse spent 27 years in with the Fort Myers Police Department.

Newhouse has a B.A.S. in public safety administration from Edison State College, now known as Florida SouthWestern State College, and an M.A. in management and leadership from Webster University.