Why are we even here? That was the question Fort Myers Beach Public Safety Committee member Dawn Thomas asked. Thomas said she was frustrated and dumbfounded by the way the town council negated them and threw the committee to the side.
Thomas’ criticism of the council was unanimous from the public safety committee, just as their vote was when they recommended the council move forward with hiring at least two LCSO community police officers. And that’s what the committee members were angry about. Not only did the town council vote down hiring the officers, the months worth of work the public safety committee put into researching the issue and presenting it to the council was totally ignored.
Public Safety Committee Chair John Goggin said he’s been frustrated more than once with the disconnect between the committee and the council and in an upcoming meeting he plans to go to the council and ask them to answer yes or not if issues they are working on are a priority so committee members are not wasting their time.
At a previous town council meeting Mayor Ray Murphy said he had no idea what community police officers would be doing. He must not have been paying attention to Goggin’s committee report to the council. Goggin gave a 20 minute detailed presentation on exactly what community police officers would be doing if hired. “I explained to him how it worked,” Goggin said this week.
Committee member Heidi Jungwirth said it’s like they don’t listen to us. “Why should we waste hours researching this stuff. They don’t care if we do it or not. They’re going to do whatever they want to do.”
Committee member Jim Knickle, a former police officer in Ohio, said this would have been an investment in the community. “No-one is listening to the residents right now. This was a big opportunity missed by this council.” He said he was extremely disappointed.
Knickle made one other point in saying that while this issue may be dead now, it may not be gone forever. While community policing will not happen in 2022, it could come up again as early as the next budget cycle. The terms of two of the three no votes (Murphy and Hosafros) are up for election in 2022. Nobody knows yet if they will run again or who else may run for those two seats, however, with Dan Allers and Jim Atterholt firmly behind community policing, all it takes is one more council member who believes in the issue to make change. Perhaps Knickle was sending an early message about his plans for November 2022.