Civil rights complaint to be filed against FMPD

Lee Co. NAACP to file civil rights complaint
Posted at 12:22 AM, Mar 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-01 07:18:48-05

A civil rights complaint will be filed against the Fort Myers Police Department by the end of the week, according to the leadership of Lee County's NAACP.

The news comes after the Lee County Chapter President James Muwakkil sent a letter to State Attorney Stephen Russell Tuesday. In a pointed letter, Muwakkil asked the State Attorney's Office to confirm the identity of several officers placed on paid administrative leave following the release of a scathing independent audit of the department, and whether they were connected at an investigation which netted the arrest of 21 suspected gang members. 

"I was pretty much blown away," said James Buchanon, the 2nd Vice President of the Lee County NAACP. "I happen to know some of those guys" added Buchanon.

According to Buchanon, the NAACP believes the results of the audit point to biases within the police department that disproportionately affect poor communities of color.

"If you have some corruption in that agency, once again, you really have to question those officer's integrity," said Buchanon .

The organization says it wants the Department of Justice to review the 32 red flags highlighted in the audit conducted by Freeh Group International Solutions, a Delaware based consulting firm. Buchanon says one of the most concerning revelations made in the review was reports of officers leaking information to drug dealers regarding search warrants.

It worries NAACP leadership when it comes to the active cases of 21 men whom FMPD believe are members of the Lake Boyz gang. The men were arrested in January following a 14-month investigation which involved the RICO Act that allowed detectives to make the mass arrest.

"We're wondering how well the lead organization, the Fort Myers Police Department, is and how reliable they would be in doing an investigation of this magnitude," said Buchanon.

The Lee County NAACP plans to file the civil rights complaint on Thursday. The group has also asked the DOJ for help from a community relations expert to evaluate FMPD's practices when interacting with the communities they serve.

"We need some clarity, and we need some unity in this community and it's been a long, long time coming," said Buchanon.