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FMPD, leaders hold community discussion on surviving police encounters

Posted at 11:52 PM, Apr 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-29 23:52:33-04

FORT MYERS, FLA — Thursday night mothers, fathers, and Fort Myers police sat down to talk about "the talk" that families are having: "What do you do if you're Black or brown and stopped by police?"

For Southwest Florida mom Michelle Jennings, it's a conversation she had with her now 25-year-old son almost ten years ago and one she's having again with her 11-year-old son.

"With my 11-year-old it's 'Why mommy? Why? And I have to give him a reason why. Because I need you to come home safe. Your dad and I want to see you," she said.

It was an honest and at times uncomfortable conversation about the good, the bad and the ugly of policing in minority communities.

"I don't wake up in the morning and so I'm gonna go and kill somebody," said one FMPD officer.

But it's one that local councilman and former police officer Johnny Streets Jr. said was necessary.

"At some point in time people get tired of hearing 'Our thoughts and prayers are with you.' so, reform, retrain [and look into] who we're recruiting, who's doing the recruiting," he said.

Parents were given pamphlets with tips on surviving police encounters, but they were also given information on their legal rights during a stop.

They're facts that Jennings says she'll be sharing with her kids and it's a forum that she says is a major step towards repairing the relationship between police and the people.

"Like he said everybody has a side. You have to hear from the police side and hear from the community," she said.

So, what happens next?

Councilman Streets Jr. says he plans to have more of these forums at local churches and other private venues, in hopes that that people can be educated and so that both sides can better understand each other.