FORT MYERS, Fla. — Following the police killings of George Floyd and 20-year-old Daunte Wright, a Fort Myers mother is turning to her community and local law enforcement to protect her children.
Shenika James is planning an event for next week called “Bridging the Gap in our Community.” It’s for local police and community members to come together and hear each other out. Listen to what they need from each other to prevent what’s happened in Minneapolis from happening in Southwest Florida.
The tragic killings of Floyd and Wright, along with so many other black people killed by the police makes her think of her children.
“I don’t even want my son to be out at a certain hour,” she said.
Her son is 19 years old and her daughter is 27. She hopes she never feels the pain Wright’s mom feels now.
“I don’t ever want to get no phone call about my son is in an altercation with an officer. Oh my gosh! I can imagine the heartbreak of Daunte’s mom,” she said.
Councilman and former Fort Myers Police Officer Johnny Streets is a guest speaker at “Bridging the Gap”. He’ll suggest what young people should do when they make contact with a police officer.
“You do have rights as a driver to ask certain questions, but in a way that’s not adversarial,” he said.
James says she prefers her son and daughter to prioritize their lives over their rights, and then fight for justice later if they believe an officer mistreated them.
“When our babies are stopped by an officer, sometimes your rights really don’t even matter,” she said.
Streets says that harsh reality isn’t much different than what he experienced during the Jim Crow era. So, his advice to young people resembles what his parents told him.
“The conversation was, respect where you are, because these people will kill you,” he said.
Fort Myers Mayor Kevin Anderson served with FMPD for 24 years. He says officers often get stuck in either a warrior mentality, which he says is confrontational when dealing with criminals or a guardian mentality, which is a protector role. Both hats are necessary, but Anderson says officers need to assess each situation first.
“Majority of the people police come into contact with are really in need of a guardian, more so than a warrior,” he said.
“Bridging the Gap” is scheduled to happen here next Thursday at the S.T.A.R.S. Complex at 6:00 p.m.