FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry granted one-on-one interviews on Tuesday following a press conference recapping public safety in Fort Wayne in 2022, and looking ahead to 2023.
WANE 15 had a list of growing questions we wanted to ask the mayor since he cancelled his annual year-in-review interviews with local outlets without the option to reschedule.
This is the first time he’s taken questions from reporters since before his OWI arrest in October 2022.
The full interview can be viewed at the top of this article.
Being at a public safety press conference highlighting police and fire achievements and goals, questions at the top of the list involved the release of police bodycam footage.
We asked Henry if he believes that lack of video being released should change in order for the community to see how officers are conducting themselves and be held accountable when they act in a manner that isn’t appropriate.
“Well obviously, it depends on the circumstances,” Henry said. “Historically, body camera footage has been released for one of a variety of reasons, and if we feel if one of those areas is necessary in order to release video footage, that’s done. If not, then it’s not.”
Fort Wayne Police bodycam footage has never been released prior to that of Henry’s arrest videos. Even the release of footage from his arrest took multiple denied requests and a public access counselor’s opinion to push the city to release them.
Last November, there was a police shooting in Fort Wayne where Officer Andrew Fry shot and killed a man who investigators said was not complying with the officer and brandished a weapon.
WANE 15 has requested the body camera footage from that incident more than once. Each time we have been denied that footage.
In contrast to that, body camera footage was released within days after an Evansville police officer shot and killed a man in a southern Indiana Walmart.
Henry was presented with both situations and asked if he believes the public should see the bodycam footage from the incident in Fort Wayne.
“Well, that’s going to have to be up to our law department and our police department. Obviously, it’s their call,” Henry said.
The city’s law and police departments are both overseen by the mayor’s administration.
At the same press conference, WANE 15 asked Fort Wayne Police Chief Steve Reed if he’d like to see the law department release body camera footage when it’s requested.
“Yes. When it’s appropriate to release, we will release when requested,” Reed said.
WANE 15 submitted another public records request for the body camera footage from the November shooting on Tuesday.
After a public safety discussion, WANE 15 asked Henry why he hasn’t granted any interviews in more than three months, which included cancelling his year-end review.
WANE 15 asked city spokesman John Perlich if that interview could be re-scheduled and were told no. Perlich was also made aware that we’d like an interview with the mayor at the first chance he was ready to do an interview.
Henry was asked why he cancelled his year-in-review interview.
“There were personal reasons why I did not, and I’m going to leave it at that,” he said.
In a follow-up question, we asked the mayor if he thinks it’s appropriate for the highest-ranking elected official in the city to not do interviews for more than three months.
“The year-end interviews were something that I offered to the media. It’s something my administration has done year after year where we requested the media. The media didn’t request me. So obviously, it’s my decision as to whether or not I want to do a year-end interview, and I opted this year not to do it. I have a number of personal matters right now that cause me to get a lot of attention, and that’s where I’m going to leave it,” Mayor Henry stated.
WANE 15 again followed up by telling the mayor there have been other interview requests outside of the year-ender.
“You have?” he asked.
“You’re the mayor of the city and we haven’t been able to talk to you,” a WANE 15 reporter said to the mayor.
“I’d like for you to go back and check this history of all the mayors of this city and find out who the most accessible, approachable mayor this city has ever had. Find that answer and come back and talk to me again,” Henry responded.
The interview concluded with the reporter asking Henry if he still intends to run for re-election for a historic fifth term in 2023, as he has yet to officially file to do so.
“Yes,” he proclaimed.
WANE 15 reached out to John Perlich on Monday to inquire if the mayor would take questions at Tuesday’s press conference, which Perlich confirmed.
WANE 15’s mission is to always hold public officials accountable and ask questions that serve our viewers and the community at large. We also strive to provide advocacy for the public as well as transparency in our reporting.