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U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services

145 N Street, N.E.
Washington, DC 20530

September 2023 | Volume 16 | Issue 9

Image by Rachel Leah Photography, courtesy of the
Cape Coral Police Department.

Ten-year-old Alexis isn’t actually a Cape Coral (Florida) Police Department (CCPD) recruit—at least not yet. But ever since she was little she has wanted to be a police officer. And to that end, she has developed a strong relationship with the CCPD’s oldest recruit, Student Resource Officer (SRO) Carl Cannady, who joined the force when he was 46 years old.

The day this photo was taken, Officer Cannady had taken Alexis, who is in third grade at Skyline Elementary School, on a tour of the department which ended with a display of his squad car lights to celebrate her birthday.

Said Cannady, “Alexis and I have a special relationship. Every morning at Skyline’s Drop Off site, when Alexis arrives, she runs up to me to ask what I am wearing, then goes over all the equipment in my utility belt.”

Cannady, who previously served as the District Resource Coordinator, says he enjoys being an SRO. “I really like children, and being an SRO is an important job. Elementary school is the time to build bridges, the formative years. Once kids get past middle school, they’re pretty much set on the path they’re going to take. Plus, I get to watch them learn and understand things through their young eyes.”

Playing Cops and Being a Cop

Asked why he waited to start his law enforcement career until he was middle-aged, Cannady, who has a bachelor’s degree in Theatre, said his first interest was acting and directing.

“I was a stunt man on Baywatch and other television shows and played Detective Crocket on a Universal Studios stunt version of Miami Vice. Around the time I tired of that, a friend suggested that instead of playing a cop, I become a cop. So I enrolled in the police academy. And I love being a real cop, especially doing what I am now.”

Commenting on the concerns of some communities regarding SROs’ disciplinary interactions with children, he said, “Most of these children are good kids. And we only step in to deescalate a situation when a child is posing a serious threat or hurting somebody.”

Said Special Victims Unit Detective Brandon Sancho, “We get a lot of positive comments from parents, teachers and school administrators about our SROS, about what a great job they do with the kids and how having them there provides a feeling of safety.”

All Officers are Proficient in Water Rescues

A full-service law enforcement agency serving the citizens of Cape Coral, the most populous city between Tampa and Miami, the CCPD has more than 250 sworn officers and 93 civilian staff in units including Patrol, Investigations, Traffic, K9, and Aviation.

And because Cape Coral is on Florida’s Gulf Coast and, according to local people, has more canals than Venice, Italy, the CCPD also has a robust marine unit. Though its four officers regularly patrol the area’s waterways, looking for overturned vessels, drug activity, and other problems, all CCPD officers are prepared to assist them.

Said Sancho, “Our department sometimes encounter people who crash into canals or whose cars are swamped during storms and other water situations. So, all recruits have to pass a swim test and be prepared and trained to rescue people from the water.”

An example of this, which the FBI’s training division described on a website bulletin, occurred in November of 2022, when two patrol officers saved a woman from drowning in a vehicle that was almost fully submerged after crashing into a canal.

Accredited by CALEA and Aligned with the Pillars of 21st Century Policing

Another source of pride for the department is its international accreditation by the Commission for Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA), an organization that certifies agencies for professional excellence by requiring them to benchmark and report their adherence to 183 standards in areas such as use of force, training, critical incident management, and community service.

Shortly after Anthony Sizemore became chief in 2021, CCPD also began aligning its policies with the recommendations made by the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing in its 2015 final report.

Said Sancho, “We use the report as a roadmap for ways to enhance our operations, service to the community, officer mental health and wellness, and other areas of policing, particularly focusing on Pillar Three, which discusses the applications of technology and social media to building community trust and legitimacy.

“We are now using social media in a more effective way,” he added, citing the CCPD’s response to a recent police shooting. “Our chief immediately got on camera to talk about the situation for the local news media and streamed his appearance on [Facebook] Live as well to produce answers in real time. The reaction of the community was very positive.”

The department also adopted recommendations from Pillar Four of the President’s Task Force’s on 21st Century Policing final report, which emphasizes the value of community policing in managing crime reduction. To this end, the CCPD recently replaced their Community Outreach Unit with a Community Policing Unit, which is more proactive in its outreach, helping the department set up and manage additional programs.

One of the programs is the Leadership Academy, which attracts business owners, government officials, and other interested people from all over the county. Participants learn tactical driving, improve their marksmanship at the shooting range, and learn the internal workings of the department.

A Focus on the Young

Recognizing the importance of building relationships with young people as well, the CCPD launched a Police Athletic League (PAL) summer camp in 2022 for high school aged children. CCPD is also sponsoring a summer program which invites children from fifth grade through high school to tour the station.

In addition to learning overall safety and internet practices, students learn what it takes to be a police officer. They see demonstrations from the K9 and Motor units. The forensics technicians show the children how to lift fingerprints and help them create a fingerprint safety card for their parents’ use should the child ever go missing. When the tour wraps up, a “crime” is staged in front of them, and the kids must use everything they learned from the different departments to solve it.

“The kids really get into this,” said Sancho. “You can see their faces light up. It’s truly an experience they enjoy.”

But perhaps the most popular program, among officers as well as some community children, is the December Shop with a Cop event, which gives kids from kindergarten through 12th grade, whose families are experiencing financial difficulties, an opportunity to engage with a Cape Coral Police Officer on a personal level.

Each officer picks up a child and takes them to breakfast provided by McDonald’s before heading to Super Target to shop for gifts for each of their family members, as well as something special for the children themselves. Though the program is funded by several sponsors, the officers usually dig into their own wallets too.

Commenting on these and other programs CCPD is preparing to deliver in the coming years, Sancho said, “We’re dedicated to building and maintaining strong community relationships with residents of all ages. And we hope to see Alexis in the department’s 2033 recruit class.”

Faye C. Elkins
Sr. Technical Writer
COPS Office

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