Town hall meeting brings out emotions, questions in Lakeland - WFLA News Channel 8

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Town hall meeting brings out emotions, questions in Lakeland

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LAKELAND, FL (WFLA) -

About 150 people came to the Lakeland Center Monday night for a town hall meeting about recent scandals within the city's police department.

"Here a few abusing their power, allowing their greed and corruption to control has brought a bad scar on the entire police department," said Lakeland resident Glenn Copple.

Lakeland Police have been hit with several investigations over the past couple of weeks: from a sex scandal to reports of falsifying documents to women being forced to shake out their bras during traffic stops. Shirley McBride stepped up to the mic and defended officers.

"I was the first black female police officer for the City of Lakeland back in 1984," she said. "When I was in the police academy ... that was the way the male officers were trained. They could not pat down a woman with their hands. They had to ask the female to shake."

She then started pulling stuff from her shirt.

"Women carry a lot of things in their braziers," she said pulling items out. "Here's my cell phone. Here's my keys...nail polish."

Earlier in the day, the two co-chairs of the commission created by the mayor to delve into the problems at LPD stepped down from their posts. The city confirmed the resignations of Joe P. Ruthven, former mayor, and Eileen Holden, Polk State College President.

Holden wrote in her letter to the mayor it is obvious Lakeland is facing challenges including "the absence of consensus and meaningful collaboration on the city commission" and "a series of breakdowns in communication" and "accountability that span the city's organizational chart from top to bottom."

One of Holden's main concerns was "ambiguity that lingers with respect to (the panel's) status relative to the sunshine law," which essentially means if their work and meetings should be public information.

In the meantime, the city commissioner Phillip Walker has organized a time for prayer at Munn Park at 7:30 a.m. on Thursday. That's the same day the police advisory commission is set to meet in the afternoon.

At Monday's town hall meeting Doug Thomas, Lakeland City Manager, urged residents to be patient as the department completes investigations in the police department cases.

"My job is to make sure that they're not overturned, dismissed or reduced in some way, shape or form simply because we didn't follow the process," said Doug Thomas.

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