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Lee County NAACP meets with local officials to discuss law enforcement policies

Posted at 7:35 PM, Jun 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-11 19:35:58-04

LEE COUNTY, FL. — Community leaders are continuing to push for racial equality in Southwest Florida.

On Thursday, the Lee County NAACP met with multiple law enforcement leaders to discuss how they can work together to create a better community for all.

As people continue to fight for racial equality throughout the country, the NAACP says it's time to move anger into action.

"This is a start, and I think it's important our community knows there are people out there, including law enforcement, that want to see all citizens handled the same way," said Scot Goldberg, attorney for the Lee County NAACP.

Thursday's meeting is part of locally launching the NAACP's 12 Step Campaign, which includes ensuring rules on the use of force are clear within department policy.

NAACP says implementing the steps within the campaign in local law enforcement agencies would create a more just system.

"It's time for us law enforcement officers to listen, more than speak, to listen because we have to listen to the citizens' needs," said Sheriff Carmine Marceno, Lee County Sheriff's Office.

Muwakill — president of the Lee County NAACP — questioned each agency and department on what policies they have in place for the use of force.

"Do you have knee-holds in it? Do you have chokeholds in it?" asked Muwakkil.

Both of which the NAACP hopes to eliminate.

"We do not allow chokeholds, however like it was said already, if it's a life or death situation or the last resort the officer could use that," said Chief David Newlan, Cape Coral Police Department.

An answer several other departments echoed, including the Fort Myers and Sanibel Police Departments.

Another talking point at Thursday's meeting was how the departments handle claims of excessive use of force.

The Lee County Sheriff's Office says they have a Blue Team assigned to review those claims.

"That Blue Team also tells us if any member of our department is involved in multiple uses of force, it's an early warning system," said Sheriff Marceno.

State Attorney Amira Fox also joined in on the conversation — explaining how her office handles cases of possible excessive use of force.

"We have a chief of special prosecutions... he reviews all police shootings, he reviews all in-custody deaths, he reviews any case where public corruption is asserted, and he also reviews any case where there's been excessive use of force claims and where he sees a pattern of that," said Fox.

The Lee County NAACP says they plan to hold more meetings to keep this conversation going.

"We think this is a good start, we think we're on the same page regarding reform," said Muwakkil.