LEE COUNTY, Fla. — Malike Adigun’s a well-known DJ in Fort Myers. He posted a request on Facebook Wednesday for all of his friends to email their mayors, asking them to sign a pledge.
“It’s the mayor pledging to just review, engage, report and reform police use of force policies,” said Adigun.
It’s a nationwide initiative by President Barack Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper organization. Something Adigun said could improve some use of force policies that could be excessive.
“Maybe its outlawing certain chokeholds and cutting off people’s breath,” he said.
Referring to the murders of black men Eric Garner in New York in 2014 and most recently George Floyd who both died at the hands of law enforcement. While restrained by officers both men repeated “I can’t breathe.”
Although neither death happened in Fort Myers, the city’s no stranger to complaints about law enforcement interactions with black communities. Something Councilman Kevin Anderson explained led to several changes over the years.
“We’ve got the review board. We’ve got the audit, and then we have the inspector general,” he said.
Anderson said since the citizens review board - a public monthly meeting - and an audit by an independent agency, crime in the city has dropped by 40 percent in the last few years.
But, Anderson, a former police officer of Fort Myers himself, said accountability starts before officers are in the field.
“It’s right from the beginning. Who they hire,” he said. “Hire the right people who have the temperament for this job.”
Adigun said the Fort Myers mayor, whoever that may be come November, could help improve the relationship between police and the community by signing the pledge.
“We’re not even saying hey, what you have is wrong. We’re saying let’s review that, report your findings, and let’s reform it if we need to,” he said.
Anderson agrees with that idea.
“I’m always open to looking at anything that makes our police department more professional, more efficient, more effective at serving this community and protecting this community,” he said.
He also wants people to be mindful of one thing.
“We have to be careful that we are not handcuffing our police officers. It does the community no good, if our police officers are afraid to do their jobs,” said Anderson.
Adigun said he has personally reached out to local mayors and is waiting for their responses.