FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WFFT) - City council members have received hundreds of requests to defund the Fort Wayne Police Department following recent protests that escalated into tear gas and vandalism.
“A lot of this that happened just over the past few days was very new to most of us,” said Geoff Paddock, Fort Wayne City Councilman 5th District. “I’ve been in Fort Wayne a long time, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a situation quite like this.”
Paddock says he understands the frustration of community members who feel the police were out of line in deploying tear gas on protestors but doesn’t think defunding FWPD is the answer.
“It is an orchestrated effort obviously and I know these folks feel very strongly about it but I will not support efforts as a city councilman to defund the police department,” Paddock said. “The way to go here is to make sure we are doing it better, doing it smarter, and that we are working on sensitive training of our officers that you can never really have too much of.”
Sgt. Sofia Rosales-Scatena said FWPD is focused on rebuilding trust between the community and police officers, as well as engaging with the community in a positive way moving forward.
“Everyone will always react differently to different things, so it is almost impossible to have this one size fits all plan in place for every police department, in every situation,” Rosales-Scatena said. “We rely on our training experience and if things fail at some level then we have to reassess what works and what doesn’t.”
Paddock said the city council has invited Police Chief Steve Reed to be a part of their meeting on June 9.
He hopes having city leaders focused on the same goal will allow for a public forum for community members to voice their concerns in response to recent protests.
“There is a lot of work that we can do together, and we want to heal the wounds of the community,” Paddock said. “I think Mayor Henry, Police Chief Reed, many city council members and I are going to continue to do that over the next few weeks.”