EDITOR’S NOTE: This article originally appeared in the May 30, 2012 print edition of Frost Illustrated. It features an interview with Garry Hamilton, who was appointed as Fort Wayne Police Chief on Dec. 16. Hamilton is the first African American to hold the position.
Frost Illustrated Staff Report
FORT WAYNE—Fort Wayne Police Department officials say they need the community’s help in finding some particular people—only this time, it’s not about suspects in a crime. Rather, the department is looking for a number of community-minded persons who want to serve their neighborhoods and the city through a career in law enforcement. Ideally, they say they want those people to represent the city’s natural diversity.
According to a number of police officials, maintaining a department that is reflective of a community’s population can go a long way toward enhancing not only that department’s crime solving abilities but also crime prevention and community outreach.
“Sometimes, when you have a hostile situation and you can talk to someone who looks like you, that can make a big difference,” explained Deputy Chief Garry Hamilton, one of the few African Americans currently in a command position with the FWPD.
Proponents of Community Oriented Policing (COP) programs long have argued that crime fighting efforts—particularly in the areas of crime prevention and solving—are greatly enhanced when police officers take the time to interact with citizens on a regular basis and not just when a crime has been committed. The idea is that if officers see themselves as part of the community and get to know citizens, citizens are more inclined to talk to them about potential problems before they become real problems, as well as being more willing to help provide information to help solve crimes.
Along those lines, Hamilton said that approach often can be further enhanced by hiring police officers who reflect the culture and ethnic makeup of a community and, therefore, more readily can understand the social dynamics of a group with whom they are working and communicate more effectively. Given that Fort Wayne has large African American and Hispanic communities as well as a growing Asian community—particularly with Burmese immigrants—he said the FWPD is making an effort to recruit from those local populations, as well as the indigenous European American (white) population.
“We’ve got a diverse community,” said Hamilton. “We need everyone from all parts of the community to be involved.”
FWPD records report that, of the 344 patrol officers currently employed by the FWPD, 241 or 70 percent are white males; 34 or 9.8 percent are white females; 37 or 10.7 percent are black males; seven or 2.0 percent are black females; 14 or 4.0 percent are Hispanic males; four or 1.3 percent are Hispanic females; four or 1.3 percent are Asian males; two or 0.6 percent are Asian females, and one or 0.3 percent is a Native American male. There are no Native American females on the FWPD.
According to figures published online at CLRSearch.com, Fort Wayne’s 2010 population was: 64.27 percent white; 16.37 percent black or African American; 8.21 percent Hispanic; 2.32 percent Asian; 0.40 percent American Indiana and Alaska Native; 0.05 percent Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander, and 8.37 percent “other.”
(Editor’s note: On this and other various websites reporting Fort Wayne’s population, Hispanics are counted among “white” in racial statistics but broken out separately by ethnicity. CLRSearch.com records the city’s white population at 72.48 percent, but Frost Illustrated has separated the Hispanic population from that number for comparison purposes.)
Hamilton said he would like to see the department staffing numbers more reflective of the city’s population numbers.
Hamilton isn’t the only person in a command position who believes in the effort to create a diverse Fort Wayne Police Department.
According to some critics, a number of the most recent FWPD classes have included very few, if any minority candidates. Other officials say they want to change that by making sure that the recruitment process reaches out into the minority communities.
As director of training for the FWPD, Deputy Chief Dottie Davis also heads the city’s police academy as well as recruitment efforts for the department. Davis said the FWPD is making a concerted effort to recruit a more diverse police department. In fact, the department is taking applications for an upcoming class of recruits from now through Sept. 28. And, she said, department officials are stepping up outreach efforts with new recruitment posters and making personnel available to speak to community groups to help reach that goal.
“We’re hopeful that we have a very diverse pool of people interested in a career in law enforcement and serving the community,” said Davis.
She said that after the application process ends on Sept. 28, the department will start giving physical fitness tests in October and then give written and psychological exams in November with the goal of starting the 20-week training class for successful candidates in the spring of 2013.
While Hamilton said he is firmly committed to helping create a more diverse police department, he is pragmatic about the problems in trying to recruit minorities for the department—especially African Americans.
“Historically, with the police brutality of the ’60s, historically, minorities have no trust in law enforcement and the judicial system,” explained Hamilton.
Being an African American man, Hamilton is well aware of that history and has an understanding of the enmity between the police and the community. He said he sees that enmity playing itself out in other communities such the growing Burmese population in Fort Wayne. One reason for the problem is the lack of understanding between police officers with no ties to the community which they police. That, however, can be changed, said Hamilton.
“The best way to start changing that is to start getting people within the community, who have family here, who are invested in the community,” said Hamilton.
While he points out that it’s important to have African American officers, invested in the black community to help police the black community, the idea doesn’t just apply to black people. Hamilton said it’s a good idea to have a police department primarily made up of people from the community in which they live.
“We’re making a serious effort to get homegrown folks,” explained Hamilton.
The deputy chief has taken it upon himself to help spread the word, making presentations at job fairs, speaking at Pilgrim Baptist Church where he attends and Manchester College. He said Deputy Chief Davis and people at the academy also are willing to come out and talk to various groups to help explain the recruitment process along with opportunities the police department offers one to serve his or her own community.
“She has made it well-known that she wants a diverse class,” said Hamilton.
Applications are available at:
• The Public Safety Academy of Northeast Indiana (the Fort Wayne Police Training Center) at 7602 Patriot Crossing in Southtowne Centre;
• City of Fort Wayne Human Resources Department, Citizens Square Building, 200 E. Berry St., Suite 370;
• The Fort Wayne Police Department Records Bureau, 1 E. Main St., Suite 108, or
• Online at www.FWPD.org.
Or, for more information, call Deputy Chief Davis of the Fort Wayne Police Training Center at (260) 427-1240 or Deputy Chief Hamilton at (260) 427-1260.
This article originally appeared in the May 30, 2012 print edition of Frost Illustrated.