Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry revealed a new plan June 18 that will focus on public safety and racial justice in the wake of weeks-long protests in downtown Fort Wayne.
Mayor Henry’s Moving Forward Together plan calls for the creation of a commission comprising local business and faith leaders, elected officials, law enforcement, activists and other citizens that will examine the “8 Can’t Wait” campaign which has grown increasingly popular since the May 25 death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed by police in Minneapolis.
The newly formed Commission on Police Reform and Racial Justice will be chaired by City Councilwoman Michelle Chambers, D-at large, who along with Councilwoman Sharon Tucker, D-6th district, has stated she plans to co-author legislation that would ban chokeholds, require all police officers to wear body cameras, and form an 11-member citizen review board to investigate cases of police misconduct.
“We have our faith leaders, our community leaders, our concerned citizens,” Chambers said of the commission. “This commission will work hard to find and respond to issues that have come forth since the murder of Mr. Floyd. … We are honored to be the voice, and we are honored to be the change that our city is looking to do.”
Chambers said membership in the commission is purely voluntary. A schedule of meetings should be available in the next couple weeks, she said, adding that she plans to continue to host virtual “listening sessions” to hear concerns from community members.
The members of the commission are:
• Ahmed Abdelmageed, United Way of Allen County Advocacy Committee chair
• AlienNature (Relando Rencher), protest and demonstration organizer
• Sheila Curry-Campbell, Fort Wayne NAACP and Allen County Council member
• Rev. Dr. Anne Epling, First Presbyterian Church
• Larry Gist, MLK Club of Fort Wayne
• Carol Helton, City of Fort Wayne City Attorney
• Joe Jordan, Boys and Girls Clubs of Fort Wayne
• Brendon Maxwell, Utopian Coffee
• Marty Pastura, Empowerment Advisors
• Pastor Anthony Pettus, Greater Progressive Baptist Church
• Nikki Quintana, Fort Wayne Metropolitan Human Relations Commission
• Sofia Rosales-Scatena, Fort Wayne Police Department public information officer
• Pastor Steve Terry, New Life Church of God
• Marlon Wardlow, Parkview Health and Fort Wayne Urban League
The Commission on Police Reform and Racial Justice will report directly to the mayor’s office.
“The commission will look at the strengths and weaknesses of our public safety division, our community as a whole and more current challenges that need to be addressed in our community,” Mayor Henry said.
The Moving Forward Together plan also calls for the Fort Wayne Police Department to begin a pilot program to expand its use of body cameras. Fort Wayne Police Chief Steve Reed said he has already met with representatives from Motorola-owned Watchguard Video, an in-car and body camera manufacturer. He said the police department is currently developing a storage system for video evidence. Upon completion of that project, Reed said, the department can pursue full implementation of body cameras.
Reed said FWPD currently implements many of the policies demanded by the 8 Can’t Wait campaign, including the ban of chokeholds, required de-escalation, warning before shooting, exhausting all alternatives before shooting, duty to intervene, banning officers from shooting at moving vehicles, use of force continuum and requiring all force to be reported.
“Thanks to our great training center here, I feel that we’re ahead of some agencies,” Reed said. “Obviously we’ve got some work to do and we’re going to do that, but the great men and women of the Fort Wayne Police Department are dedicated to this community. I just ask you to support them as we move forward together.”
As part of the new plan, Mayor Henry said he also plans to reconvene the Mayor’s Roundtable on Public Safety, which has been inactive for several months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Roundtable consists of individuals representing various organizations in Fort Wayne, and explores ways community sectors can work together to enhance the overall safety of Fort Wayne residents.