FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The Fort Wayne Police Department graduated its 62nd Basic Recruit Class, Thursday night. The class was comprised of 26 graduates and included one woman.
FWPD has been working to bring in more diverse groups of recruits. Police Chief Steve Reed said the department has had difficulty recruiting in recent years and the number of applications are dwindling.
“Less people are putting them in,” said Reed. “So it does lessen the chances of getting a department that mirrors our community.”
Dominic Lombardo is the Director of Criminal Justice and Pre-Law at Indiana Tech. Lombardo said the decline in applicants could be attributed to a number of reasons:
- Rigorous employment standards, which include demanding physical tests, psychological tests, and extensive background checks.
- Many departments are now requiring higher academic standards. Some departments require a minimum 2-years of college and/or military experience.
- A growing economy: Candidates who might consider becoming a police officer may find employment elsewhere.
- And scandals and negative publicity.
“Some of the people in the minority community are shying away,” said Lombardo. “Just based on maybe what neighbors might think or friends and family. We’re losing a lot of good excellent candidates.”
“Over the past few years law enforcement has been shown in a negative light across the country,” said Reed. “Certain incidents have been played and played and played again. I think people tend to shy away from that.”
The graduation ceremony was a dream come true for Fort Wayne native, Brenda Arrivillaga, who stepped up to the call to protect and serve. Arrivillaga is the only female recruit to graduate in this class.
“I, myself, have been in situations where I needed the police,” said Arrivillaga. “I saw what it was about and it was very encouraging and it’s something that drew me to this.”
She and her brothers in blue underwent an intense training for 21 weeks. The program includes classroom and hands-on training. It is followed by 6 months of on the job training. Arrivillaga said being the only woman only pushed her to work harder.
“It made me push myself even more because I don’t want them to say ‘well she’s a girl,'” she said. “I wanted to be right up there with the guys. The guys were 100 percent behind me. Anything I struggled with they helped me and picked me up.”
Although recruits like Arrivillaga have become more difficult to come by, Chief Reed said the mission to increase diversity on the force won’t stop.
“We are out recruiting heavily,” he said. “Which we did for this class and our upcoming class next year.”
With this graduating class the Fort Wayne Police Department will be staffed to 457 officers.
Mayor Tom Henry issued the following statement:
“The City of Fort Wayne is committed to providing the best public safety services possible. Our new officers are dedicated individuals who’ve been called to make a lasting and meaningful difference in our community. We’re fortunate to be able to add additional personnel to the Fort Wayne Police Department to serve and protect residents, neighborhoods and businesses.”