Police veteran makes history as city’s first black ‘top cop’
FORT WAYNE—The new year started off on an historic note with the swearing in of a new slate of high-ranking public safety officials—including one who serves as a city first.
On Jan. 2, Garry Hamilton was sworn in officially as Fort Wayne’s first black chief of police in front of a capacity crowd and live television cameras in the City Council chambers in Citizen Square.
City officials announced plans for Hamilton to take on the police chief’s position late last month.
Hamilton, who most recently served as deputy chief over the city’s southeast quadrant, is moving into his 20th year on the department. In addition to previously holding the deputy chief’s position, Hamilton has served the department in a variety of command positions. In addition, he has been active in a number of other organizations, including Pilgrim Baptist Church where he is a member, and the Guardians of the Police, the local affiliate of the National Black Police Association. He earned his bachelor degree from Manchester College.
Hamilton was chosen by Mayor Tom Henry to take the top police spot, replacing the former chief, Rusty York, who recently accepted the position of director of public safety for the city.
“Today’s appointment demonstrates a strong commitment to public safety. Garry is an experienced, disciplined professional with the leadership skills and integrity that I was looking for in a police chief. He’s an excellent communicator and is respected by his peers and the community,” said Mayor Henry in a press release issued prior to the swearing in ceremony. “Garry will be a great police chief for our city. I’m looking forward to a positive future for the Fort Wayne Police Department.”
“I’m honored to have been asked by Mayor Henry to serve as police chief,” said Hamilton. “We have a lot of tremendous opportunities to build upon in the Fort Wayne Police Department. Our proactive efforts in policing and a commitment to keeping our city as safe as possible put us in great position to succeed. We want to be an accessible and approachable department that values neighborhoods and a great quality of life.”
Hamilton said one of his top priorities as police chief will be to lead the development of a strategic plan to address the record number of homicides and other violent crime that recently has plagued the city. He also said continued cooperation with other law enforcement agencies is one key to working effectively on those issues.
Enhanced communication between the department, neighborhoods and business is another priority high on Hamilton’s list of priorities.
In addition to Hamilton, and York who was sworn in as director of public safety, a number of other police command staff officials were sworn in:
- Steven Reed was promoted to assistant police chief. Most recently, Reed was director of training at the Fort Wayne Police Academy. Reed is a 20-year veteran of the department and holds an associate’s degree from Vincennes University.
- Derrick Westfield was promoted to deputy chief of the Southeast Division. Westfield most recently served as captain of the Southwest Division. Westfield is a 17-year veteran of the department and holds a bachelor’s degree from Ball State University.
- Scott Berning was promoted to captain of the Southwest Division. Berning most recently served at the Fort Wayne Police Academy. Berning joined the Fort Wayne Police Department in 1994 and holds a bachelor’s degree from Ball State University.
- Deborah Joyner was promoted to a captain in the Investigative Division. Joyner most recently served as a sergeant in the Southeast Division. She’s been with the Fort Wayne Police Department since 1981.
Mayor Henry praised the new chief’s management team.
“My administration has a strong commitment to public safety,” said Henry. “Having an experienced, professional leadership team in our police department is critical in our efforts to make our city as safe as possible. We’re dedicated to providing citizens and businesses with a great quality of life, strong neighborhoods and making investments to enhance opportunities for new jobs and economic development.”
Other promotions and transfers for the Fort Wayne Police Department include:
- Karl Niblick was named deputy chief of the Northwest Division;
- Marty Bender was named deputy chief of Special Operations;
- Tom Bandor was named liaison officer to the Allen County Prosecutor’s Office;
- Shane Lee was named captain at the Fort Wayne Police Academy, and
- Mitch McKinney was named sergeant at the Fort Wayne Police Academy.
With the appointment of Hamilton as chief, Westfield as deputy chief and Joyner as captain, observers point out that the Fort Wayne Police Department now has three black persons in its command staff.