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Citizen panel weighs in on Lakeland Police Department

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LAKELAND, FL (WFLA) -

The Citizen's Advisory Commission tasked with reviewing problems at the Lakeland Police Department presented some preliminary findings to city commissioners this week.

"I think we have established a level of confidence in Chief (Lisa) Womack," said Advisory Commission chairman Bruce Abels.

He says the panel is convinced many of the problems at LPD existed long before Chief Womack took over back in 2011. 

"She seems to have recognized from the day she walked into the department that there was trouble in the department, that things needed to change," Abels said.

Among the changes the panel believes Womack has already made are improvements in report writing and training, the establishment of a no fraternization policy and the creation of an office of professional standards.

The Advisory Commission did find LPD and City Hall lacking though when it comes to communicating with the public.

"We've suggested to the city manager and to the chief that they would have been better advised to be more public. We have used the analogy of the Grady Judd style of communication," Abels said.

So far, most of the communication from the department and City Hall has been in response to an on-going sex scandal, concerns about officer misconduct on traffic stops and problems within the agency's DUI unit.

The Citizen's Advisory Commission suggests Lakeland needs to deal with the culture, morale, values and ethics of all city employees, and that begins with conducting a comprehensive survey.

Ables says it would be "an in-depth, confidential, anonymous survey of all the city employees starting with the PD". 

The panel says that survey would reveal internal problem areas that need addressing. Board members believe the survey should be conducted again in two years to determine gains that have been made.

The Citizen's Advisory Commission will meet again on September 11th when Chief Womack and City Manager Doug Thomas will present a review of internal investigations that have been completed so far.
 
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