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Fort Wayne City Council Approves Police Body Cams

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Rebecca Green
/
WBOI

The purchase and implementation of body cameras for the Fort Wayne Police Department won near-unanimous approval from City Council Tuesday night.

The bipartisan effort was co-sponsored by Democrats Michelle Chambers and Sharon Tucker, as well as Republican Russ Jehl, giving the measure a head start with three of the five votes needed for passage.
 
The ordinance would require officers “to use and maintain, as part of the standard uniform, an operational Body Camera, type as determined and implemented by the Fort Wayne Police Department,” with an implementation plan in 2021 and effective no later than December 31, 2022. Since Council serves as the city’s fiscal body, the measure outlines three budgetary possibilities to be determined with Mayor Tom Henry.
 
Chambers and Tucker have spoken publicly during Council meetings and online panels over the importance of body cameras and better accountability for the department since violent clashes between police and protesters during demonstrations over the killing of George Floyd over the last weekend in May.
 
Jehl stated in June that he would not be supporting another city budget without support for body cameras, given that it was something promised more than a half decade ago.
 
It ultimately passed 8-1, and Tucker believes collaboration is why it succeeded.
 
“We went to chief of police [Steve Reed], he was the very first conversation that I had asking for input and suggestions. Went to and offered our hand of conversation to both unions. We also talked to legal through our legal counsel, and he met with the administration’s legal counsel to get input on the ordinance you have in front of you,” Tucker said.
 
Reed was on hand, and stated that body cameras were always part of the plan but both cost and the department’s ongoing digital archive project have gotten in the way of prioritizing them.
 
“I don’t know that [the ordinance] is needed, but I’m not going to oppose the ordinance, if we could agree on some common language that we talked about. And obviously if we get that common language I think this is something we can move forward with,” Reed said.
 
He also says he’s confident in Council’s expressions of support for the department, and he shares that sentiment with officers on staff.
 
Fourth District Republican Jason Arp was the lone dissenting vote.
 

Zach joined 89.1 WBOI as a reporter and local host for All Things Considered. He currently hosts Morning Edition.