Fort Myers Councilmember says Civilian Investigative Panel needed

Posted at 6:22 PM, Apr 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-18 07:20:10-04

The state of the Fort Myers Police Department is taking center stage at city hall. City council is now considering a push to strengthen department over-site within council chambers.

Council-woman  Terolyn Watson has requested a roll-call vote that would turn the city's Citizen's Police Review Board into a Civilian Investigative Panel.

Currently, the board has six members and three vacancies. The purpose of the board is to be advisory to the chief of police and review complaints not currently investigated by the Police Department as well as closed departmental investigations conducted in instances of use of deadly force, alleged use of excessive force, any instance where police action results in death or serious bodily injury. In addition, the board also reviews any complaint referred to it by a member of City Council, city manager, or chief of police or any complaint selected by majority vote of the board for review.

The board also reviews policies, procedures, rules, regulations, general, or special orders pertaining to the use of force and police conduct toward citizens.

Councilwoman Watson is asking for an investigative panel to help keep the Fort Myers Police Department accountable.

According to her proposal, the panel would be able to make recommendations related to the Fort Myers Police Department's policies and procedures when it comes to training, recruitment while also providing input to the chief of police before changes in the police department's policy is implemented.

Watson tells Four In Your Corner this panel would benefit the Fort Myers Police Department and the constituents.

"It's time. It's now or never," Watson said.

She says the biggest benefits of reforming the board is to give board members the ability to issue subpoenas, after consulting the state attorney . A panel attorney, an independent attorney appointed by the city council would be able to obtain evidence from witnesses, which she says is the biggest difference and benefit.

"We need more community policing," she said.

Four In Your Corner will update this story once vote is concluded.