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CCPD issues ‘response to recent questions’ statement

By Staff | Jun 10, 2020

The Cape Coral Police Department on Wednesday issued a response to questions received in the wake of the police restraint-caused death of George Floyd in Minneapolis:

In the days and weeks since the tragic death of George Floyd, we have been having open and frank conversations with members of our community about this incident, as well as broader topics as they relate to police/community interactions.

We believe that these conversations are vital to promoting and maintaining transparency with our community. Real community policing and partnerships are not only forged during “good times” …they are equally crucial during uncomfortable times; some would say even more so.

The Cape Coral Police Department welcomes these conversations as we value transparency, and quite frankly, we are proud of our track record and high standards of accountability.

We wanted to compile many of the questions we’ve received, along with highlights from some conversations we have had. We believe that others may have these same questions for their hometown police department but may not have had the opportunity to speak with us. Therefore, we are making this information available to you, our customers.

Many across our country have called for a set of “National Standards” for law enforcement these past few weeks. We agree. The Cape Coral Police Department is a nationally accredited agency, and we have been since 1989. We are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, or CALEA for short.

CALEA mandates that we meet or exceed 459 industry standards… best practices defined by subject matter experts in law enforcement. These standards range from mandated bias-based training to stringent use of force reporting, ensuring that we remain at the forefront of community expectations. These standards and proofs of compliance, which encompass department policies and procedures, are reviewed annually by Compliance Service Members from CALEA. We then have onsite inspections at our agency to physically inspect all of these standards and proofs of compliance every four years. We are a Flagship Agency and have been designated as a Gold Standard agency by this accrediting body, the most respected in the profession.

Our Communications section is also accredited by CALEA and must comply with 205 standards and proofs. These standards are reviewed annually, and we then have onsite inspections at our agency to physically inspect all of these standards and proofs of compliance every four years.

The Cape Coral Police Department goes an extra step. The State of Florida’s Commission for Florida Accreditation (CFA) accredits Cape Coral Police Department, mandating that we adhere to an additional 92 industry standards.

Additionally, our Forensics Unit is independently accredited. This voluntary accreditation ensures that we are meeting or exceeding accepted national industry standards in these respective and highly specialized fields. Cape Coral Police Department is the only municipal police department in Florida accredited in the areas of Law Enforcement, Forensics, and Communications.

The Cape Coral Police Department was one of the first (if not the first) law enforcement agency in the region to implement a body-worn camera policy. We have voluntarily worn BWCs since 2015. Our BWC program provides several benefits in addition to the documentation of police/citizen encounters. The BWC program helps us identify training needs through regular review of what our officers are doing. It has led to a reduction in complaints, even proven some allegations of misconduct to be unfounded.

Finally, the BWC program has led to a decrease in injuries to both our officers and citizens. Our policy, General Order C-75, mandates that any police/citizen encounter, from asking for directions to using force, be recorded. Any failure to adhere to this policy results in disciplinary action.

Our officers receive training in bias-based policing annually, and we take it seriously. Our organizational culture does not promulgate bias-based or racist behavior. Our Bias-based Profiling policy is General Order B-32. To that end, we strive for representation of our service population. This means that we recruit and hire to reflect the demographics of our community. Cape Coral is a diverse community made up of many different cultures, backgrounds, beliefs, and languages. So is our police department; we are made up of African American, Caucasian, Latino, Asian-American, Men, Women, LGBTQ, with rich and diverse backgrounds and experiences. In other words, we don’t tolerate those who are intolerant.

When it comes to recruiting and hiring, we conduct a thorough background complete with a deep dive into an applicant’s past (and present). This process involves things like visits with neighbors, employers, a comprehensive psychological examination, and combing through social media accounts. Screening to ensure that an applicant will meet our department, as well as the community, standards are paramount. Also, we have required that our officers pursue their college education since 1994.

We require over 1500 hours of training for our new hires, including the police academy, state certification, pre-deployment, and field training. This training must be completed with a high level of competency before new officers can work independently. All of our sworn officers require continuing education yearly on topics such as domestic violence, bias-based policing, defensive tactics, de- escalation training, cultural diversity, and more.

The complaint process is also a topic of our community conversations. At the Cape Coral Police Department, we investigate all complaints from citizens. It makes no difference in the method of the complaint: In-person, telephone, email, even anonymous complaints of misconduct are all investigated rigorously. Any complaint that is reported to the police department from an officer’s demeanor to, excessive force or discrimination, whether externally or internally reported, are investigated thoroughly resulting in a finding. Our procedures and policies have been vetted through CALEA, CFA, and the State of Florida Fraternal Order of Police; General Order B-30 and Standard Operating Procedures CPD-13.

By our accreditation designation, we publish our complaint, internal affairs, and use of force data annually. We have done so since 1989. See for yourself: www.capecops.com/publications

In 2019, the Cape Coral Police Department had nearly 178,000 citizen/police encounters. Of those encounters, 3,302 resulted in an arrest or 1.85%. Of those, only 42 arrests out of 3,302 resulted in a use of force. That means only 1.27% of our arrests required the use of force or 0.023% of our total citizen/police encounters resulted in a use of force of any kind. Twenty-three hundredths of one percent! The statistics also prove that our use of force is not disproportionate to any race, gender, or class.

The Cape Coral Police Department received 13 external inquiries (complaints) in 2019. Five of those 13 complaints were sustained. The most common complaint is for administrative policy violations or rudeness. Examples of administrative policy violations include things like failure to submit paperwork on time or tardiness.

The number of Complaints and Use of Force for the Cape Coral Police Department overall has been on a downward trend over the last decade. The Cape Coral Police Department received zero complaints of bias-based policing, excessive force, or violation of civil rights.

We believe that these statistics are the result of a strenuous recruiting process, cutting-edge training, and paying attention to the small issues before they grow into more significant problems.

Our agency also has an early intervention program, whereby we identify patterns of complaints, absenteeism, tardiness, attitude, or other factors and intervene on the employee’s behalf to ensure there are no underlying issues. Early intervention ensures that the employee receives the services they may need if they are in crisis. In cases of problem employees, they are corrected or removed.

We are proud of the men and women of the Cape Coral Police Department and the work they perform each day for our community. And we are also especially proud and grateful for the partnership we have with the citizens of Cape Coral. Together, we enjoy the safest city in Florida for violent crime (with populations greater than 100K residents). Not only are we the safest city for violent crime, but we also had the highest reduction in violent crime and non-violent crime than any other comparable city for 2019!

We could not achieve these results without the hard work and dedication of all of our police department employees and the cooperation and public trust of our residents. Trust between law enforcement agencies and the public they protect and serve is essential. It is the key to the stability of our community and our nation. We are grateful and appreciative to have that here in the City of Cape Coral. This leads to the success of the effective delivery of policing services.

In closing, here is the statement provided by Police Chief David Newlan following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN.

“As a nation, we are all shocked and outraged by the actions of four Minneapolis Police Department officers as they arrested George Floyd. Floyd tragically died as a result of the encounter, whereby the officers acted outside of acceptable training, policy, and tactics.

“As a 30-year law enforcement professional, and current Chief of Police, I have never seen or heard of a tactic whereby an officer kneels on an individual’s neck. Much less someone already handcuffed, prone, and non-combative.

“I, along with my officers, share the outrage and disappointment with the actions taken by these former officers.

“I also felt the need to make a public statement for myself as well as my officers. I could not let silence on the matter be construed as acceptance of these criminal actions.

“I am of the belief that all legitimate law enforcement officers are equally disgusted by what transpired that day, and I am confident that these former officers will be prosecuted just like any other criminal.

“I grieve for the Floyd family and all others who are mourning his loss and also mourning a tremendous setback in police-community relations. Here in Cape Coral, we work awfully hard to ensure we have community support through our actions.

“We demand accountability from our officers and demand that all lives are treated with dignity and respect; Even those who are being arrested.

“Yes, there are times that we have to use force. However, we are trained to utilize reasonable force necessary to accomplish lawful objectives. Rest assured, any deviation from these standards is not tolerated.

“Valuing our American freedoms, protecting life, and serving others are in our organizational DNA.

“Speaking of American freedoms, we have seen images of peaceful protests that turned violent across the country. The Cape Coral Police Department supports American citizens in their constitutional right to peacefully assemble. We will even be present to protect that right and ensure everyone’s safety.

“However, we will not stand idly by and let violence and the destruction of property occur.

“In closing, I believe that we, as Americans, will get through this challenge, like we have countless others. Working together, with trust and respect, justice will be done. And this, I believe, can be George Floyd’s legacy.”

– The Cape Coral Police Department