I recently participated in community focus groups to effectuate change in Fort Myers Police Department and the Fort Myers Community. I have volunteered several hours of time in this effort and overall I am glad I participated. There are several steps that have already been completed and there is more work to be completed.
I initially was hesitant to participate as a facilitator because the main requirement to facilitate the discussions was to set aside personal feelings. I have strong opinions about Fort Myers Police Department based on my work experiences and it is difficult for me to not share my thoughts. I ultimately chose to participate as a facilitator because I am forced to set aside my personal feelings on a daily basis at work and I knew I could set my feelings aside for the greater good.
During the training we were taught to get people to share their opinions so we could gather as much information as possible. I facilitated two groups at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church. I learned a lot during the groups such as the strong perception that you cannot ask an officer a question with the officer feeling disrespected and escalating the situation. It was also shared that people really want officers to get out of their patrol cars and get to know the people better. I’m really grateful to all the people who showed up and openly shared their feelings and opinions.
Tonight we had a meeting to follow up on the focus groups. We do not have the results of the focus groups yet. We discussed our experiences as facilitators, common themes, and areas where we can improve. We did not have an adequate number of people under the age of 29 to come to the focus groups. We plan to host additional groups specifically to target the age groups of people under age 18 and people between the ages of 19-29. I will be contacting people soon with that information. If you have comments or concerns, please feel free to share with me and I will make sure the information gets to the appropriate people.