As an American citizen, I watched the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri with great interest; particularly the reaction of individuals on all sides of the issue.  I took note of how it went from a news story, and then ignited into a white-hot burning phenomenon that struck a chord across the nation. People formulated opinions on the incident and aftermath and with today’s social media platforms, everyone has the opportunity to be “micro-published."   I also found it interesting that there were a lot of experts who have weighed in on the shooting and protest aftermath without all of the facts coming out. With regards to the shooting and subsequent investigation, I’ll wait until all of the evidence comes out before I provide my input. That’s the investigator in me; I’ve learned that patience is the key to finding the truth. No matter how it turns out…good, bad, or ugly.

As a Law Enforcement professional with nearly 20 years of experience in the field, I chose to look at the some of the criticisms of the Ferguson Police Department.  Does my agency have the same issues as those Ferguson is being criticized for?  How can I take what happened and use it as an opportunity to ensure that the Cape Coral Police Department is doing everything possible to be the best?

I chose to focus on the criticisms not related to the shooting or investigation. I focused on the Ferguson Police Department’s Public Affairs function and also the criticism of the agency’s representation of their service population. 

 

Public Affairs:

First I looked at the public affairs function of the Ferguson Police Department. In short, their handling of the message was not good.  As someone who has spent years in the Public Affairs Office working on brand management and crisis communications, I can tell you that they failed in that regard. 

When I looked internally at the Cape Coral Police Department’s Public Affairs Office and readiness to tackle an internal crisis, I like what I see.  For years, our Public Affairs Officers have received the best training available from national experts in crisis communication in law enforcement.  Recently, we even received training from Lieutenant Paul Vance, Spokesman for the Connecticut State Police.  Vance is revered as an expert in the field and put on a clinic for media management in a crisis during the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy. 

Over the past few years we have been tested, albeit not to the degree of a Ferguson-like incident, but tested nonetheless.  I am confident that we have the infrastructure in place to handle a national media event.  The Cape Coral Police Department is a leader in the field when it comes to transparency and openness with our community.

 

Representation of Service Population:

First, let me define service population.  Simply put, the service population is the community which a police department serves.  For the Cape Coral Police Department, it is the men, women and children who live and work within the City of Cape Coral, FL.

A law enforcement agency’s ability to mirror their service population is achieved through recruiting and constant review of its recruiting methods and makeup of its service population.  The Cape Coral Police Department has a recruitment plan and conducts a yearly analysis of the plan to ensure that we are meeting our goals.  The goals are defined by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA). The Cape Coral Police Department has been accredited  by CALEA for over 25 years and recently achieved the Gold Standard from the independent organization, whose mission is to improve law enforcement service by creating a national body of standards developed by law enforcement professionals. 

CALEA mandates:

“recruitment steps should be directed toward the goal of approximating within the sworn ranks the demographic workforce composition of the community that it serves with regards to ethnic, cultural, racial and gender makeup. The recruitment plan should be very specific with regards to the stated objectives and should clearly outline specific steps to be taken to achieve the objectives.”

The Cape Coral Police Department utilizes the US Census and other sources to have current demographic data on the City of Cape Coral, and makes real efforts to recruit members from protected class groups so that we are able to more accurately represent our community. 

We have established relationships with the Lee County chapter of the NAACP, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of SWFL, as well as minority Honor Society groups at local colleges in an effort to recruit prospective employees. 

Our efforts are paying off and we do a pretty good job of mirroring our community.  Are we perfect?  No, but we recognize the importance of this goal and we make legitimate efforts to achieve it and we are mere percentage points from completely mirroring our service population, unlike many agencies nationwide. 

One needs only to turn on cable news or look at events unfolding across the country to see that the issue of service population representation with the police department is important.  Here at the Cape Coral Police Department, we don’t wait for things to happen and find ways to react.  You can trust that we are constantly looking at trends, anticipating change, and staying ahead of the curve on important issues in contemporary law enforcement.


About the Author:

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Captain Anthony Sizemore has nearly 20 years law enforcement experience in numerous disciplines. He has been assigned to the Patrol Bureau as a Watch Commander, Public Affairs Office and the Investigative Services Bureau throughout his career with the Cape Coral Police Department. He is currently the Commander of the Professional Standards Bureau where he is responsible for Personnel and Training, Internal Affairs, Budget, Policy Writing and Accreditation. He holds a Bachelor's degree in Business Management from Hodges University. Captain Sizemore is a graduate of the International Association of Chief's of Police (IACP), Leadership in Police Organizations program. He is a member of the Southwest Florida Police Chief's Association, the Florida Internal Affairs Investigators Association and the IACP.