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Discrimination complaint involving CCPD has been resolved at the local level

By Staff | Dec 2, 2010

Ensuring that citizens from all backgrounds can file a complaint with the Cape Coral police without being deterred took center stage Thursday when department officials and the local chapter of a national organization met.
Interim Police Chief Jay Murphy and other command staff with the agency met with members of the Lee County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The meeting was spurred by the recent announcement by the U.S. Department of Justice that it is investigating a complaint of discrimination by the Cape police against specific groups.
James Muwakkil, president of the Lee County NAACP, filed the complaint 18 months ago. According to official documents, Muwakkil alleged that the CCPD discriminated against blacks and Hispanics when they tried to file a complaint with the police department about how they were treated by Cape officers.
During Thursday’s meeting, the attorney for the local chapter stated that the allegation of discrimination raised in the complaint has been addressed.
“That part is behind us as far as the NAACP is involved,” Scot Goldberg said.
“The issues that we bring forward are not necessarily race based,” he said.
According to Goldberg, the policies and procedures that the CCPD has in place for filing a compliant are fine and meet federal guidelines. The problem can be in implementing the rules from the top down, on a day-to-day basis.
He said those frontline employees who deal with complainants may want to stick up for their colleagues and may not be happy about taking a complaint, but they must know that they cannot deter the complainant from doing so. Employees must be aware of the consequences for not following the policy.
Goldberg stressed that the NAACP wants to make sure every citizen, regardless of race or origin, can file a complaint without being intimidated and that the policy is being followed on down to the frontline employees.
“We don’t operate under any pretense that we do it right all of the time,” Murphy said.
But, he continued, the department welcomes criticism, and if an employee needs to have the policies reinforced to them, that reinforcement is made. Murphy said an e-mail was sent this week reminding employees of the rules and the policies are set to be dispersed again with some training materials.
“Our staff, they’re all exposed to that policy,” he said. “It will just reaffirm our policies.”
Murphy was unaware Thursday of any recent complaints from citizens.
During the meeting, Murphy and his command staff covered the complaint process and explained that complaint forms can be filled out in person, online or taken home and mailed in. Complainants can use their real name or submit an anonymous complaint by writing anonymous or using a made-up name.
“You don’t have to speak to a police officer,” Murphy added.
Goldberg and Muwakkil appeared pleased upon leaving the meeting.
Goldberg explained that the recent spotlight on the process should enforce to CCPD employees the necessity of following the agency’s policy. He did not perceive any problems related to filing complaints arising in the near future.
Muwakkil said it was a “pleasant surprise” to see that the CCPD’s policies were “pretty much” in line with the Department of Justice’s standards.
They also acknowledged the CCPD’s willingness to work with their chapter.
“We feel very positive in the direction we are going,” Goldberg said.
During the meeting, Murphy also invited the Lee County NAACP to become involved in a focus group the department will put together in the beginning of the new year. The group will discuss communication, marketing and branding.
Goldberg said he and Muwakkil will talk to their executive board.
“I think we will and would like to be a part of it,” he added.
As for the initial compliant filed with the Department of Justice, Goldberg said the matter is out of their hands.
“What they do with that complaint is up to them,” he said. “It’s not in our court anymore.”