New FWPD officers look to make a positive impact on the community amid nation-wide tensions

Local News

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Despite the unique start to their careers as the country deals with the novel coronavirus pandemic and widespread protests against police brutality, newly-pinned officers joining the Fort Wayne Police Department remain optimistic about entering law enforcement.

After a little more than five months of what they described as “rigorous and challenging” lessons, a new group of officers is ready to officially join the Fort Wayne Police Department. For some, the 21 weeks spent training and educating themselves has led to a major life milestone.

“It’s been my dream since I was probably five years old so now being 33 years old, being able to achieve my dream and the passion I always pursue, it feels really, really good,” said former Marine Yoel Sanchez.

The rookie officers are joining in an unusual time as the country deals with the COVID-19 pandemic and wide-spread protests against police brutality. While they are not ideal conditions to start a career in, the new officers are pushing forward with a positive attitude.

“I’m excited,” said Roderick Waters, who was born and raised in Fort Wayne and decided to join the force after talking with several people and praying over it. “I’m excited to work within the community and have the opportunity and a chance to work with the great community of Fort Wayne and see what I can do to make things, in terms of community relations, work well.”

New officer Jessica Van Wagner said she was not nervous about starting on the force with everything that is going on because she feels her time at the academy has prepared her well. One of the biggest tools on her belt that she believes she will need to improve relationships in the community is communication.

“I think mainly just communicating effectively,” said Van Wagner. “We’ve been able to learn how to de-escalate situations, speak to people, be respectful, and that usually goes a long way.”

The academy graduated 16 people at the ceremony, less than their usual class size. They believe the national tension between law enforcement and citizens is a contributing factor, but they have high hopes that a more diverse police force is in their future.

“Minority applicants, female applicants, different sexuality applicants, whatever, we welcome everyone into this department,” said Sgt. Sofia Rosales-Scatena, a public information officer for the FWPD. “We are hoping that in the next few years that we’ll have good candidates coming through and that we’ll be able to fill the role that everyone wants to see for this department, including ourselves, is a lot more diversity.”

This will be the only class to graduate to the FWPD’s police academy this year. A second class made up of people who are looking to make a lateral move from other departments to the Fort Wayne Police was postponed due to the pandemic. The department hopes to complete their training in 2021.

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