Naomi Tutu speaks at demonstration urging city to look at FWPD use of force policy

Local News

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Human rights activity Naomi Tutu joined Fort Wayne religious leaders in calling on Mayor Tom Henry to take a closer look at the Fort Wayne Police Department’s use of force policy.

Naomi Tutu, daughter of Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu, joined Faith in Indiana at Promenade Park where she spoke along with protesters who said they had interactions with police during the George Floyd protests in late May and early June. The focus of the demonstration was to talk about how police handled the protests and what they could have done better.

“Our young people were unfairly targeted and we know that no one really wants that in this community, so let’s come together and let’s see what we can do to change and to reimagine what policing can really be,” said Cookye Rutledge, a minister with Faith in Indiana.

Rutledge said that while protesters did share their negative experience with the force, Faith in Indiana is not looking to bash the police department. Rather, they want to underline the need for a review of police department use of force policy and get Mayor Tom Henry to commit to a comprehensive review of it.

“We are not anti-police, that’s not what we’re saying” said Rutledge. “We’re so grateful to the wonderful force that we have here in Fort Wayne. We’re saying that there’s some duties that they’re doing that they really shouldn’t have to. We want them to do what they were trained to do. We want them to be the guardians of the peace, rather than the warriors.”

According to Rutledge, much of what Faith in Indiana would like to see change in the department is in-line with the 8 Can’t Wait initiative, which recommends departments ban the use of chokeholds/strangleholds, require de-escalation, require a warning before shooting when possible, exhaust all alternatives before shooting, a duty of officers to intervene when they see other officers using an inappropriate amount of force, a ban on shooting at moving vehicles, establishing a use of force continuum, and requiring all instances of force be reported.

When reached for comment, a spokesperson for the city said their new Commission on Police Reform and Racial Justice is already looking at the 8 Can’t Wait initiative, however, they added that the Fort Wayne Police Department has already adopted the eight steps it calls for:

We appreciate and value feedback from the public. The City of Fort Wayne under Mayor Henry’s leadership is addressing questions and concerns about public safety and racial justice. The recently established Commission on Police Reform and Racial Justice held its first meeting last week. They are looking at strengths and weaknesses in the community and current challenges that need to be examined, including a further study of the 8 Can’t Wait initiative. In addition, the Commission will have ongoing communication with protest and demonstration leaders and will put together recommendations on possible solutions to present to the Mayor’s office and City Council. The Fort Wayne Police Department has been doing the 8 Can’t Wait initiative as part of policy, rules/regulations, and training and will continue to do so. It includes the ban of chokeholds/strangleholds, require de-escalation, require warning before shooting when possible, exhaust all alternatives before shooting, duty to intervene, ban shooting at moving vehicles, establish use of force continuum, and require all force be reported.

We’re encouraged by the progress that’s being made and will continue our commitment to serve every resident of Fort Wayne with respect. We realize there is a lot of work ahead as we strive to be the best city possible.

The City of Fort Wayne

Faith in Indiana asked Tutu to speak at the demonstration because of her experience talking about hope and reconciliation. Tutu spoke to some of the protesters beforehand and said their stories were similar to what she has heard happening in other cities around the country.

“I think that Fort Wayne is not a special case, except that it is a special case in that all communities are special cases with their own stories,” said Tutu. “But, in fact, this is all part of a larger, a broader story of God’s call to us for justice.”

In these calls for justice, she wanted to remind her fellow religious leaders of the role that people in their positions have played in civil rights movements throughout the years.

“This evening is really focused on faith leaders, saying to them ‘where are you?'” said Tutu. “As our young people are on the streets, where are you? As people are calling out for justice, where are you? In the history of our faith community it has been that faith leaders have been at the forefront of calls for justice and we’re just reminding our faith leaders of who we are.”

While her message was geared towards those faith leaders, she sees it as a positive that the crowd had diverse backgrounds because she believes it takes the whole community to better itself.

“We all want communities that are healthy, that are just, that give our young people an opportunity to dream and reach their highest potential, that take care of those in times of need,” said Tutu. “It’s important that the conversation include the whole community to be part of the building of a just society.”

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