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Fort Wayne mayor and police chief highlight progress in fixing racial injustices and related challenges for FWPD

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FWPD Chief Steve Reed, city councilwoman Michelle Chambers, Mayor Tom Henry and Boys and Girls Club CEO Joe Jordan revealed progress in implementing racial justice reforms involving city police.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Fort Wayne's NBC) - Mayor Tom Henry and Police Chief Steve Reed remember very well the charged up protests that occurred in downtown streets last May and June.

The death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis in May of 2020 sparked demonstrations in cities across the country.

Some of the Black Lives Matter protests near the Allen County Courthouse involved ugly confrontations between officers and citizens angry about mistreatment of citizens, especially minorities.

It prompted Henry to form his Commission on Police Reform and Racial Justice.

On Wednesday, city officials and the co-chairs of that commission shared progress made in re-building trust between police and the public and next steps that are planned to improve police-community relations even further.

Henry summoned reporters to reveal that the entire city police force has been through at least a two-hour presentation of procedural justice, where officers and citizens sometimes participate together in workshops on diversity training.

In addition, Henry and Chief Reed say a new recruiting team made up of a dozen officers will be used to help identify officer candidates of color, and mentor them once they are hired and trained for work on the force.

"We've had some success in the last few classes with nearly one-third of our class being underrepresented persons in our class, so we're starting to see an uptick in that, which is very good," Reed said.

"That recruiting team looks like our city, so maybe there's an opportunity for us to create greater diversity within our police force," said Democrat city councilwoman Michelle Chambers, a co-chair of the Commission on Police Reform and Racial Justice.

We are told that negotiations have cut the price down on body cams being purchased by FWPD for use by officers on the street.

The department expects at least 100 officers will be wearing the devices by the end of this year, on a path to outfitting the entire city police force with them.

They are seen as critical in documenting contact between officers and residents, clearing officers who follow protocols, holding those accountable whose behavior is deemed to have crossed the line.

Several action steps for reform have not been implemented yet.

The head of the Fort Wayne Boys and Girls Clubs says recognition that change is needed in the way police interact with citizens is a key starting point.

"There's a way to treat people no matter who or what station in life they're in, even the person that just committed a major crime, there's still some dignity in that, right. Do your job and do what you have to do to do your job, but there's also some dignity, human dignity that's in that as well," said Joe Jordan, a co-chair on the mayor's special commission.

Jeff Neumeyer

Jeff Neumeyer is a reporter for WPTA.

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