VENICE MAYOR REJECTS CITIZENS’ CALL FOR POLICE OVERSIGHT
Chris Simmons Press Release
Venice, FL – (6/30/20) – Mayor Ron Feinsod has rejected a request from Venice residents to create a citizens oversight committee for its police department. Local citizens called on the mayor and city council to be proactive and help preclude potentially questionable conduct in the future.
Chris Simmons, a retired Army Special Agent who led over 1,100 counterespionage investigations, said the creation of an oversight committee is long overdue. He cited research from the Gallup Organization which found only 57% of Americans have “a great deal or quite a lot of confidence” in the police (Jim Norman, Gallup, 7-10-17). “This is unacceptable,” said Simmons.
“Complaints against police officers can be key indicators of misconduct,” noted the former spy-catcher. For example, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin had 18 complaints lodged against him prior to George Floyd’s death.
Simmons said “Residents and visitors must believe their voices will be heard without risk of retaliation. An Oversight Committee would guarantee such confidence.” Many local municipalities already have police oversight committees, such as Sarasota, St. Petersburg and Naples. However, since the composition of such entities varies by location, Simmons and his supporters called on the city to establish a “Working Group” to determine the best structure for Venice. They noted additional assistance is available from the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE).
With decades of service in Counterintelligence, Simmons volunteered to lead the Working Group. The Mayor, however, rejected their call for police oversight, emailing Simmons “The Venice Police Department continues to meet the highest level of performance.” Ironically, Mayor Feinsod wrote that email shortly before interfering with a police traffic stop in which he felt racial profiling had occurred.
“Citizen oversight would prevent misperceptions like those held by the Mayor,” claimed Simmons. Chris Ciccone, another Venice resident, wrote the City Council that “such a committee… would demonstrate it [Venice] cares about maintaining the integrity of the police force” and help address citizen concerns. Simmons sees oversight as a useful tool to enhance professionalism, adding “No one doing the right thing ever fears an oversight review.”