Crucial findings within the Fort Myers Police Department have been revealed after a nearly year long audit. A Delaware-based risk management firm, Freeh Group International Solutions, LLC., was hired by the city to review key issues within the Fort Myers Police Department.
The probe follows years of department scrutiny, ranging from racial discrimination and favoritism to unsolved murders.
The $150,000 audit was approved by city council members before police chief Derrick Diggs was hired in August 2016. More than 200 interviews were conducted throughout the process. Some officers were interviewed more than once with the promise of anonymity to get a candid assessment of the department.
"The overwhelming majority of police officers are doing a phenomenal job," Robert O'neil with Freeh Group said.
While the department received praises for most officers doing a phenomenal job, auditors mentioned officers are having to deal with staffing shortages, inadequate space, and a large number of unsolved crimes.
Auditors have also found reports of officers leaking information to drug dealers regarding search warrants that were never properly addressed. Another finding shows officers, not trusted by other officers, were promoted to serve in a position where they could have compromised sensitive investigations.
After several rounds of interviews, auditors found officers were told to "increase arrests and citations" to reach a statistical goal and that citizens complaints of harassment were not addressed, leading to tensions between officers and citizens.
Auditors say the department doesn't have an adequate intelligence base nor does it have adequate control oversight of internal affairs investigations.
One of the biggest complaints auditors received from officers was about preferential treatment when it comes to training and promotions, as well as a lack of experienced leaders to investigate criminal cases like homicides.
O'neil shared the department lost a great deal of experienced officers after a buyout in 2008. He says with the budgetary problems the jobs of police officers became even more difficult over the years.
The report highlighted there are several gaps needed to be filled, which Chief Diggs has already committed to filling as soon as possible.
There is a list of 32 recommendations ranked by tier of importance. The first tier lists 12 recommendations that require immediate attention, the others are listed with either falls under a 6 month or 5 year priority deadline.
The recommendation with the highest priority is for the department to immediately request outside assistance to investigate allegations of officer misconduct.