Our community and our police department are grieving the loss of Mary Knowlton, a much loved and respected member of the Punta Gorda community. We understand and appreciate that everybody has a lot of questions and wants answers.
We're going to do the best we can to answer questions while protecting the integrity of any ongoing investigations. To make information easily accessible and ensure accuracy, we have established a community resource online here. We'll post Q&As, media updates and any other information we're permitted to share.
What is happening right now?
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) conducted an independent criminal investigation into the events of August 9th. On October 17th FDLE released their investigation to the State Attorney’s Office for a review and decision on criminal charges. The City of Punta Gorda has not received a copy of the FDLE report. After a review of their findings, the police department, under the supervision of the City Manager, will conduct an internal investigation.
On November 2, 2016 the city council approved a settlement agreement between the city and Gary Knowlton and the Estate of Mary Knowlton.
Why are you waiting for the internal investigation?
To comply with due process under state statute frequently referred to as the Police Officer Bill of Rights. In an internal investigation, an officer can be compelled to answer questions in order to retain employment. Currently, FDLE is conducting a criminal investigation, and a person can elect to not answer questions under protection of the 5th amendment. There is also a limit of 180 days to close an Internal Investigation once it is opened. Should the criminal investigation take longer than expected to close, it could affect the internal investigation.
- We are examining ways to strengthen our current policies to ensure that more structure is in place for community demonstrations. After checking with other agencies through the Florida Police Chief's Association and Florida Police Accreditation Coalition, we were unable to find an agency with a policy specifically tailored to community demonstrations of this type. In an effort to ensure that a tragedy such as this never happens again, we have proposed new accreditation standards relating to scenario-based training and community demonstrations.
Policies that have been changed/updated since the incident:
General Order Regarding Use of Firearms in Training and/or Community Presentations
SOP 500.03 - Department Armory
SOP 259.00 - Police Officer Testing Process
SOP 500.01 - Use of Firearms
SOP 710.00 - Applicant Background Investigation
SOP 270.00 - Employee Development
SOP 530.00 - Community Services Program
- We have instituted a new policy for the storing of weapons and ammunition in the department armory. While the previous practice of keeping these items in the same storeroom is not directly related to the events of August 9th, the decision was made to take extra measures to ensure non-lethal weapons are stored in a secure area which is separate from the armory.