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Derek Chauvin case has lasting impact; police agencies nationwide work to build trust with people of color

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Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted April 20th of murder and manslaughter charges in the death of George Floyd.
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The Fort Wayne Police Dept. is on track to outfit all 320 officers in its operations division with body cameras before the end of 2022.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) - Most Americans will remember the day when former police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted by a Minneapolis jury of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.

The case will leave a mark on the country's law enforcement departments too, driving changes in policies and approaches to how officers interact with citizens, especially minorities.

The Fort Wayne Police Department is also being re-shaped by what happened in Minnesota last May.

Last summer, not long after George Floyd died while in police custody, Mayor Tom Henry put together the Fort Wayne Commission on Police Reform and Racial Justice, comprised of a group of civic leaders who sought to build more trust between city police officers and the citizens they come in contact with.

Improved race relations and better departmental transparency were among the recommendations made by the commission for boosting those trust levels.

City police had been working on expanding the use of body cameras by officers on the force already, but George Floyd's death and the protests that ignited from that helped put the body camera campaign on a faster track.

"I think it was already in discussion prior to the whole Chauvin case, but the hold-up was the funding, the money behind it and since that case made national news, I think it made it easier for us to get the funding, and the phasing in a little bit faster than maybe it would have without the case being so public," said Sgt. Jeremy Webb, a public information officer for Fort Wayne PD.

Sgt. Webb says some officers on the force already wear body cams while on duty, but another 100 or so will be issued the devices before the end of this year, and then by the end of next year, it's anticipated that all 320 officers in the operations division will wear one and be recording while doing their jobs.

But there have been other lessons learned by all police agencies from the pain caused by the actions of former officer Derek Chauvin.

Retired Toledo police officer Ronald Shannon, who now teaches criminal justice courses at Purdue Fort Wayne, believes the ordeal in Minnesota is making police more committed to the idea of hiring additional minority officers.

"We have to get in the habit of recruiting people with more diverse backgrounds. Our law enforcement departments have to represent our communities which we serve, not only from the perspective that it looks good, but because there is a sense of value in engagement with those particular communities," Shannon said.

Shannon maintains police departments need to get specific about what is deemed appropriate officer conduct in dealing with suspects and other members of the public, and that officers must know there will be real consequences for not following training.

Jeff Neumeyer

Jeff Neumeyer is a reporter for WPTA.

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