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COMMUNITY VOICE

Local option income tax benefits residents as well as public safety

Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - 12:01 am

As public safety administrators in the City of Fort Wayne, we want to take this opportunity to assure you that it's our mission and we commit ourselves daily to providing the most effective services possible for the residents we serve.

Ensuring your safety and peace of mind is our top priority.

To date in 2014, we've seen a drastic reduction in violent crime. We thank residents for stepping forward and providing information that's helped significantly in taking a number of our violent criminals off of the street. As well, the Gang and Violent Crimes Unit is successfully reducing the negative impact of guns, gangs and drugs in our community.

Thanks to the leadership and vision of Mayor Tom Henry, the Fiscal Policy Group, neighborhood and business leaders and the members of City Council who supported and passed a financial plan for the future, we have the funding through a local option income tax to have made an academy class a reality. This is the first academy class we've been able to have since 2011. We currently have a group of very motivated and capable young recruits who will be graduating and joining our ranks this June.

A guest column by the president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association that recently appeared in The News-Sentinel questioned the city's tactics in the passage of the LOIT. We strongly disagree with the positions taken by the PBA representative. The LOIT discussion was open to the public and involved hours of information sessions, discussions and debates with City Council, community leaders and city employees, including PBA members.

We must move beyond the lingering hard feelings of a vocal few. There was a stark choice in front of us. We had to find a new revenue source to put additional officers on the street, add new firefighters to the Fort Wayne Fire Department, enhance our quality of life and position Fort Wayne as a leader in public safety.

The alternative was serious budget cuts and layoffs in public safety and other areas of city government that would've been detrimental to residents and businesses.

Mayor Henry's office has not received negative feedback related to the passage of the LOIT. Residents rallied behind the innovative approach to deal with a budget challenge caused by property tax caps implemented by state government. Residents wanted more police officers and firefighters, as well as enhancements to streets, roads and our parks. It takes a collective effort to invest in ourselves.

The men and women in the Fort Wayne Police Department are professionals who do a tremendous job to protect and serve, and we value highly the courage and heroism that our officers exhibit daily. Our department is recognized nationally as a leader in training, technology, professionalism and the quality of its fleet of vehicles.

Contrary to the comments by the PBA president, our compensation package, which includes salary, benefits and bonuses, is second to none in the region and we continue to attract highly qualified and talented young people to apply to our agency. In fact, in just three weeks we have received more than 400 applications for our next academy class, which starts in January.

We're thankful to be part of a city that's committed to safety. We're encouraged by the positive momentum we're seeing and continue to be impressed with the support we receive from residents and businesses as we work together in a city that understands and appreciates the importance of public safety.

Russell York is director of public safety and Garry Hamilton is police chief of Fort Wayne.