Mayor speaks after drunk driving arrest; Councilman Jehl still pushing to protect officers

Published: Jan. 24, 2023 at 5:25 PM EST
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA) - Fort Wayne’s top officials met Tuesday morning with media to discuss public safety in the city.

Mayor Tom Henry, Police Chief Steve Reed, and Fire Department Chief Eric Lahey provided a recap of public safety for last year and their plans for this new year. They brought attention to the fact that homicide rates have gone down by 45%, according to their data. To read the full findings click here.

After the news conference, the mayor gave 21Alive News an opportunity to ask more questions in a one-on-one interview. This is the first time he’s gone on camera since his drunk driving arrest.

“Obviously I made a poor judgement call, I paid the price and it’s time to move on,” Mayor Henry said.

In the body camera footage of his arrest, the mayor referred to his position of authority numerous times and the Fort Wayne police officers expressed fear of losing their jobs.

Our Digging Deeper reporter Karli VanCleave asked the mayor if he has met with those officers since they expressed feelings of intimidation.

“I have talked to the command staff, and they’re aware sometimes things are said and they understand nothing was meant by those comments,” he said. “It was just a period of frustration and self anger and so on, nothing has happened.”

The city initially refused to release this footage until 21Alive News filed a complaint with the public access counselor of Indiana. The video was eventually released. However it’s becoming clear, the city does not intend to make a blanket policy to release all body camera footage that’s requested. Police Chief Steve Reed says their same policy will remain in place. They will only release video on a case-by-cases basis.

“It just means we don’t want to release too much information to compromise the investigation at that time,” Reed said.

While Mayor Henry said it was time to move on, some Fort Wayne City Council members believe there’s still a need to create a policy to protect the police officers.

In the past, Councilman Russ Jehl has attempted to hire an independent council to review the mayor’s body camera footage and help advise their next steps. Jehl says he did not get enough support from council, so he has a new idea.

Jehl says he’s written a resolution that would protect police officers from retribution. It says the police chief and police union would have to submit a certified report proving there has not been any retribution in the past or in the future. He says his priority is to make sure they keep their jobs despite their involvement in the mayor’s arrest.

He says he’s informally discussing the resolution with his fellow members and if there’s enough support he will formally introduce it to the council.