PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Policing across the country came under scrutiny following the murder of George Floyd last year.
In Port St. Lucie, the police department prided itself on being out in the community and listening to residents.
"We are very involved in our community from a nonprofit level, just meeting with the community, different HOAs, different community groups, so it allows us to tailor our policing to the community and what their wants are," Assistant Police Chief Richard Del Toro told WPTV's Michael Williams on "To the Point."
Del Toro said in the months after the death of Floyd, the outcry presented several challenges to the department, especially the leadership team.
"I'm really proud of the men and women of the Port St. Lucie Police Department because they took the challenge head-on, and they had a lot of conversations with our community members who wanted to know exactly what the Port St. Lucie Police Department was all about," Del Toro said.
One of the challenges police departments faced was the use of chokeholds and other tactics used by officers.
Del Toro said since the department has been accredited for several years, the department had already gotten rid of some of the questionable tactics.
"The Port St. Lucie Police Department never waited. We've had those incorporated in our policies and procedures because we were accredited and have the highest policing standards," Del Toro said.
The assistant chief said while accreditation won't stop all bad policing, he believes it gives the department more trust within the community.
"We would not go to a doctor that is not board-certified, would not go to a college that is not accredited. Why should a community be served by an agency that is not accredited," Del Toro said.
Another challenge police departments are facing now is police recruiting. Officers have been leaving the professions due to police scrutiny and because of vaccine mandates.
Del Toro said Port St. Lucie isn't seeing many officers leaving due to those reasons, but some officers are leaving due to retirement.
The Port St. Lucie Police Department doesn't require officers to be vaccinated but encourages it.
Del Toro said he is noticing an increase in applications to the department and said hiring officers is all about the fit between the officer and the department.
"You want to make sure they are not only going to meet the needs of our community and meet the needs of the department but that we are going to meet their needs and their expectations that they have coming into this career field," Del Toro said.
The department has recently hired more than a dozen officers and has more than 250 officers on staff.