FORT MYERS, Fla. — A push to get the conversation going, and it’s a drastic one. A Fort Myers leader wants to talk about completely dissolving the Fort Myers Police Department and asking Lee County Sherff’s Office to take over.
Councilman Fred Burson put the item on the next city council agenda.
“While I’m not really suggesting that they should take it over, I want to have a discussion about it,” said Burson.
He said he’s not for or against dissolving the department, but says now is the best time to bring up the conversation again, with Fort Myers Police Chief Derrick Diggs looking for work outside of the state.
FMPD says they haven’t been formally made aware of the upcoming conversation. In a statement they said:
“Our department will continue to focus on our mission of reducing violent crime, lower than the 51% reduction already achieved, and engaging with our community without outside distractions.”
LCSO already provides services to unincorporated Lee County, Fort Myers Beach, Estero. and Bonita Springs. Dr. David Thomas, law enforcement expert and Forensic Studies Professor at Florida Gulf Coast University said adding Fort Myers to the list would be a bad call.
“For a city the size of Fort Myers, I don’t see a pro to this at all,” said Dr. Thomas.
Burson also said he’d push to keep as many FMPD officers employed by LCSO as possible, and protect their pensions, too. Dr. Thomas said that decision would be up to the sheriff.
“You literally are going to have to negotiate with the sheriff to make sure that they’re allowed to stay within the pension system, and that the sheriff is willing to pay their pension,” he said.
Mayor Kevin Anderson said the community should have the final say on whether or not LCSO takes over the duties of FMPD.
“If there is an interest on the part of council to do that, I would fight that it would only be done through a referendum with the people voting on it,” he said.
Even though he thinks ultimately voters should decide, the mayor said he’s not against council having having a conversation about it.
“What may happen is, we just look at - okay, are there duplications of services that maybe we don’t have to provide, that we can rely on the sheriff’s department to provide, without turning over the complete operation,” he said.
Council will discuss this in their next council meeting on May 17th.