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Commission on Police Reform and Racial Justice presents recommendations to re-build trust with minority citizens

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Fort Wayne's NBC) — A report from a special commission was hand delivered to Mayor Tom Henry and FWPD Chief Steve Reed on Tuesday, laying out action steps for improving police relations with Black citizens in the community.

Mayor Tom Henry formed the Commission on Police Reform and Racial Justice last summer following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which sparked protests from one end of the country to the other.

Black Lives Matter demonstrations in Fort Wayne at the end of May prompted sometimes violent clashes between police officers and citizens, where tear gas and rubber bullets were used for crowd control and some protesters destroyed public and private property.

The 17-member special commission comprised of community leaders, activists and pastors have met twice a month since last summer to review, discuss and build an action plan to address concerns in the community.

About eight months later, the commission has now hand delivered to Mayor Tom Henry and Fort Wayne Police Chief Steve Reed their final report and recommendations for change.

Organizers said the core of these recommendations is based on how to strengthen the community’s trust in Fort Wayne’s Police Department, and if these changes are made, it will help bring accountability, transparency, and healing.

Many of the recommendations touch on transparency involving the internal affairs department, like adding five civilian members to the Board of Public Safety.

Commission co-chair Joe Jordan, the President and CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Fort Wayne, says police need to have a different attitude when responding to calls in areas with larger minority populations.

"You're only human but being aware of who you are and how you're interacting with people is important and that's what I'm talking about, making sure people go into those high call areas, that these are human beings, they are citizens, they need the same decency and respect and honor like anybody else," Jordan said.

City councilwoman Michelle Chambers, the other co-chair, says more needs to be done to boost the number of African American officers on the city police force.

"We, meaning the people of color, make up about 15 to 20 percent of the population and right now the police force looks like about 8 percent, so we put in recommendations to deal with actively recruiting into the police department here locally, what that looks like," Chambers said.

The commission asked the FWPD to increase civilian staff and add a budget to increase community outreach efforts.

Chief Reed and Mayor Tom Henry will have 45 days or so to give an update on their progress.

Mayor Henry also asked the Chief to meet with the group at least two times a year.

Read the full report here.

Linda Jackson

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