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FWPD would get 100 new body cams under 2021 city budget proposal

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Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry on September 17th unveiled his proposed city budget for 2021.
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The mayor's new budget would fund the purchases of 100 body cameras for use by FWPD officers during 2021.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Fort Wayne's NBC) - Dozens of additional city police officers would start wearing body cameras during their shifts, if approval comes from city council on the mayor's budget proposal for next year.

That spending plan is a little leaner than normal, due in large part to the pandemic.

When you include the non-taxpayer funded portion of the budget, the $186-million budget represents only about a one percent overall hike compared to this year, and that illustrates some tightening of the belt.

Mayor Tom Henry is proposing a balanced budget, reducing costs by delaying some non-critical infrastructure projects such as phase two of riverfront development.

Also, cost cutting would take place through no travel for city employees and through shutting down hiring.

City workers are, however, slated to get a modest cost of living raise.

There were plans announced weeks ago to purchase body cameras for city police officers, and that is still going to happen.

The budget headed to city council for review includes more than $800,000 to buy 100 body cams and to create a civilian job to manage the body camera program.

We all are familiar with the outcry across the country for police to be held more accountable for their actions, especially for how they treat blacks during traffic stops and other contacts.

"I've been working on this since last October, in hopes of getting funding for body cams and council has been very good at working with me to get these first 100. We've got to make sure we ease into this slowly, and you know, we'll be a full complement for our uniformed folks in 2022," said Fort Wayne Police Chief Steve Reed.

"I don't anticipate any types of problems that we've seen in other cities, but on the same hand, we need to have the technology available to them (police officers) to protect themselves, as well as making sure that incidents are properly recorded," said Mayor Tom Henry.

Looking further out, COVID-19 could start to become a big budget problem in 2022.

Revenue from gasoline taxes and vehicle excise taxes will be down, and income tax revenues by then might fall off the cliff due to shutdown orders in mid-2020 that businesses in Indiana were forced to comply with to try and combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Jeff Neumeyer

Jeff Neumeyer is a reporter for WPTA.

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