Mayor Tom Henry and Fort Wayne Police Chief Steve Reed highlighted progress and next steps June 2 after a review of the findings from the Mayor’s Commission on Police Reform and Racial Justice.
Henry established the commission in June 2020 to bring the community together after protests and demonstrations in downtown Fort Wayne last year were spurred by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, whose death at the hands of police was recorded and went viral on social media.
Race relations, communication, and departmental transparency were the three areas of focus that emerged from the commission’s report that was released in March. The commission was led by City Councilwoman Michelle Chambers and Fort Wayne Boys & Girls Clubs President and CEO Joe Jordan. Since March, Henry and Reed have led a review of the report.
“Our community is making progress. We’re looking forward and moving forward. In the past year, my administration, residents, and public safety personnel have been proactive and intentional in our collective efforts to address diversity and racial injustices,” Henry said in a news release. “We’re a strong and resilient city. I’m encouraged with where we’re headed. Our best days are ahead of us.”
Following are highlights of the commission’s recommendations from March and the FWPD’s just-released responses.
Commission recommendation: Conduct reconciliation/acknowledgement conversations between the FWPD and the community using a facilitator to foster a multi-faceted conversation.
FWPD response: “Through Fort Wayne UNITED L.I.V.E. sessions we will be addressing this topic, but only after the litigation is complete.”
Commission recommendation: Foster and maintain a culture of racial understanding, requiring certain training such as diversity and implicit bias and United Front workshops for all officers and staff.
FWPD response: “We currently do programming with United Front and Procedural Justice. Our entire department is currently viewing all of the diversity and inclusion training through Police One. Respectively, all of our officers have been through at least a two-hour presentation of Procedural Justice. Both are part of ongoing training. We implemented Dare to Lead leadership training as well to focus on having better interpersonal communication skills and difficult conversations.”
Dare to Lead’s program purpose is to dig deeper into the officer’s commitment to becoming a high performing law enforcement leader. Daring leaders are self-aware, know how to have hard conversations, hold themselves and others accountable, build trust and lead with empathy and connection. Twelve officers have completed this training and another 16 will go through it sometime in late spring or early summer.
Commission recommendation: Enhance recruitment policies and procedures and compensation package, establishing a community task force to assist with diversity recruitment.
FWPD response: The Fort Wayne Police Department has started a new Recruiting Team made up of six main recruiters as well as six alternates. Approximately eight other officers can help if needed. They have just undergone training on expectations and on the new app called Interview Now. They will implement this app to help track candidates and give better feedback on how to improve, should they be eliminated.
“We will also be partnering with City Life to establish some programming to get those in underrepresented groups to begin thinking about a career in policing. We have had a meeting with Nygel Simms who will be helping us in this endeavor. Greggory Smith-Causey from Fort Wayne UNITED will also be assisting us with kids in athletics in the school system to get them thinking about a possible career in law enforcement.”
The Fort Wayne Police Department has also entered the 30 x 30 Initiative to improve the number of women in policing as well as in command positions. The 30×30 Pledge is a series of no- or low-cost actions police agencies can take to improve the representation and experiences of women in sworn positions in all ranks.
Agencies that sign the 30×30 Pledge have agreed to:
• Take measures to increase the representation of women in all ranks of law enforcement
• Ensure policies and procedures are free of all bias
• Promote equitable hiring, retention and promotion of women officers
• Ensure their culture is inclusive, respectful, and supportive of women in all ranks and roles of law enforcement
Currently, the police department and city administration are negotiating for an increase to the basic recruit pay. “We feel that this will encourage quality candidates and place us in a more competitive place for wages and benefits for cities our size.
Commission recommendation: Involve community leaders in outreach opportunities to raise community awareness. Having community forums/conversations, with these leaders as facilitators, can help build, maintain, and repair trust.
FWPD response: “Fort Wayne UNITED and Procedural Justice are two programs that help us build understanding. We are having more interaction with the new Diversity and Inclusion Director at Purdue Fort Wayne, Dr. MarTeze Hammonds, who attended the Procedural Justice class on April 16. Also, a full implementation of quadrant policing will help to continue community-oriented policing in a more targeted approach to increase our community commitment.”
Commission recommendation: Create a communication strategic plan to increase resources to better serve the community, including a public relations assessment of what the communication needs are and what the community is requesting.
FWPD response: “This is high on our agenda but will require funding of about $50,000.” Strategia is the group the department has selected, and they have provided a reduced rate for the FWPD.
Commission recommendation: Communicate the good work of the FWPD and the effective nature of FWPD policing and policies related to national programs like #8 Can’t Wait.
FWPD response: #8 Can’t Wait has been implemented and is currently on the department’s website. They are working on language translation for items on the website. They also have been working with Amani Family Services to help facilitate a language day for those whose first language is not English. COVID restrictions have halted this but the department is looking to pick up again once restrictions are loosened.
Commission recommendation: Support the expansion of the Board of Public Safety to five civilian members, the majority of whom should not have a background in public safety, and provide them with appropriate training. Ensure that information from the Board of Public Safety is accessible and searchable to the general public and create an annual report summarizing Board decisions.
FWPD response: These are items the Board of Public Safety will have to agree to do.
Commission recommendation: Increase public understanding of Internal Affairs through a further review of the disciplinary process and an awareness campaign of rules and regulations and the whistleblower policy.
FWPD response: The Fort Wayne Police Department would be willing to produce training about Internal Affairs for public forums.
Commission recommendation: Work with community partners to better identify social service providers and gaps in service. Have officers use 211 or on-staff social workers to direct resources.
FWPD response: The Fort Wayne Police Department has received a grant to incorporate two social workers into our HART program for addiction and recovery. The grant has been signed and we are taking applications to fill the two positions. Victims Assistance is also another area that is overlooked as a source for social service.
Commission recommendation: Enhance transparency of recruitment process, specifically, why candidates may not make it through the process. Also, explore ways to increase the number of successful diverse candidates and expanding applicant options. This will require dedicated financial resources.
FWPD response: The Fort Wayne Police Department has been working with groups in the community to increase applications of persons of color. We have also just put together a recruiting team. The team of 12 officers will be used in the recruiting process. The department has purchased Interview Now, an application hardware system to help with more direct access during the application process from the applicant to a recruiter. They can chat via text or phone through the app.
Commission recommendation: Allow officers time to appropriately process traumatic events to ensure good mental health. This may include hiring additional officers to allow appropriate respite time.
FWPD response: Currently, FWPD does allow time off for traumatic events. Where we are lacking is with everyday issues that plague everyone. Minimum counts are strict and although personal days are labeled as such officers are still held to minimum counts and unable to use them as emergency time off. Hiring additional officers should help with this issue but it will never be solved completely.
“We also are exploring other officer wellness ideas to add for our officers. We understand this job is stressful and we look to community partners to help us find ways to have officers destress.” Three Rivers Yoga Foundation puts on a HERO YOGA for first responders. This is a free yoga class that is held weekly to assist in meditation and relaxation. Peer support and EAP programs are used within the department, and as we collaborate with groups throughout the community we look to bolster these programs.
Commission recommendation: Body-worn cameras are integral to trust with the citizens. Work to outfit every officer with a working and operational camera.
FWPD response: All uniformed officers will be outfitted with cameras. Officers from every quadrant will be outfitted for body cams as the program is implemented. At least 100 officers will be wearing cameras by the end of this year with others following shortly thereafter.
The responses outlined above can also be found at www.fwpd.org and www.cityoffortwayne.org/commission-on-police-reform-and-racial-justice.html.