Best Practices

Mayor Paul Helmke

School Liaison Officer

During the past decade, Fort Wayne Mayor Paul Helmke and the Fort Wayne Police Department have been developing effective ways to fight drugs and violence in the community. The community policing philosophy has been implemented, home fleet vehicles have been purchased and dozens of new officers have been hired.

While these efforts are targeted at fighting crime on a grassroots, neighborhood level, and while they have been successful, the Mayor and Police Chief realized this strategy did not fight violence in one very important area -- the schools -- and so the Fort Wayne Police Department created a "school liaison officer" position dedicated solely to developing strategies for keeping schools safe.

Since School Liaison Officer Ricardo Robles came on board, communication and coordination with the Fort Wayne Community Schools has improved dramatically. The school system provided Robles and several other officers with communications equipment. Robles can now communicate directly with school safety officials and administrators. In an emergency, when phone lines may be jammed, this is vital. Robles also worked with the schools to get access to some of their limited data records. He can now call up the name and address of any student, which helps with research and investigations.

Coordination goes even further with the School Critical Incident Mobilization Team (SCIMT), organized by Robles and Fort Wayne Community Schools Safety and Security Director John Weicker. This team is made up of representatives from the Juvenile Probation Department, Sheriff's Office, Fort Wayne Community Schools and the Fort Wayne Police Department. The representatives are experts in dealing with juveniles and violent situations. They respond to incidents at schools throughout the community and have the power to call in specialty groups, such as the SWAT team, bomb squad, K-9 units and others.

In addition to coordinating SCIMT, Robles coordinates drug or violence investigations at the schools. Working with the school system's safety director, Robles sends K-9 interdiction teams to schools to sniff out drugs or weapons. He sets up surveillance equipment in parking lots to monitor drug deals or use. He investigates threats of violence and racial tension and works to proactively stop fights before they start. In 1995, Robles conducted 217 school investigations. The SCIMT was called out five times and the newly created school K-9 interdiction team searched for drugs or weapons on four occasions.

Contact: Office of the Mayor, (219) 427-1111

Mayor's Literacy Commission

Mayor Helmke knows that well-educated citizens are productive members of any community. With an education, people can find good jobs, provide stable homes for their children and work to make their community a better place to live. That's why in his 1996 State of the City address, the Mayor announced the creation of a Literacy Commission:

"As Mayor, I don't have responsibility for literacy in the community. But I do care about this community and about moving it ahead and doing what will make it stronger. We have a lot of groups working on pieces of the problems -- what government can do best is bring some of those groups together, form coalitions and partnerships and help steer the course in which the community is headed."

Shortly after the State of the City address, Mayor Helmke signed an executive order creating the Mayor's Literacy Commission. Leaders from all walks of life were appointed to the commission. It includes parents, teachers, education experts, pastors, directors of literacy programs and business leaders.

During its first meeting, the Mayor charged the commission with drawing up a literacy plan or vision for the Fort Wayne community. He noted that the vision should include recommendations for preparing children to be ready to learn by the time they enter school. The Mayor pointed out that the Fort Wayne area offers many programs and services that promote literacy, but often these efforts are not coordinated and therefore do not always reach the individuals who need to learn about them.

The Literacy Commission is now working to draw up a resource guide of all the literacy programs available in the area. After examining the current programs, the commission will determine where there are gaps in services and make recommendations about filling the gaps. In addition, the commission plans to examine the barriers to literacy and ways the community can come up with a coordinated plan to overcome the obstacles.

Mayor Helmke does not want to influence the conclusions reached by his commission -- he wants the process to operate independent of politics and government. The commission will present its final recommendations to Mayor Helmke by the end of summer 1996.

Contact: Office of the Mayor, (219) 427-1111

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The United States Conference of Mayors

J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
1620 Eye Street, NW, Washington, DC 20006
Telephone (202) 293-7330, FAX (202) 293-2352

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