Lena Loch is a German police officer who hopes that someday she’ll become chief. Standing between her and that goal is an English-proficiency test.
“That’s why I’m thankful for the opportunity to improve my English here in Fort Wayne,” Loch said Sunday, already showing proficiency.
Loch, 37, is in the city for two weeks as part of an exchange between the Fort Wayne Police Department and the police force in Gera, a city of about 100,000 in east-central Germany. Since 1992, Gera and Fort Wayne have had a sister city relationship, and the exchange between the police departments is about 10 years old.
Loch arrived Aug. 30, and so far, her days have been full. She’s visited the Allen County Juvenile Center, the Child Advocacy Center and the Sexual Assault Treatment Center. She’s observed how police officers work in the city’s schools. She’s gone on raids with narcotics officers. And she’s spent a couple of shifts riding with patrol officers.
Loch said the equipment in an American squad car – the computer, the video system and the cage separating the front and back seats – has stood out because German police cars usually don’t have those features. Another difference is how officers here often work solo and backup one another when necessary, while Gera police officers “go in shift with two officers in one car – always,” she said.
When Loch hasn’t been learning about the American style of policing, she’s been sightseeing with her host, Fort Wayne Detective Lorrie Bandor. Along with stops at local attractions, they’ve made trips to Michigan to visit Bandor’s relatives and to Chicago.
“Every place we go there’s somebody from Germany or somebody who has a German connection,” said Bandor, who has ancestors from the Black Forest region.
This is the first year that Bandor has coordinated the exchange program. In addition to Loch, two other officers arrived here recently to take part in SWAT training. As the other half of the exchange, Bandor and another Fort Wayne officer hope to travel to Gera next year.
Loch lives in the city of Erfurt, pronounced “effort,” and commutes about an hour to work in Gera. She became a police officer when she was 19 and eventually began investigating homicide cases.
“As she says, ‘Homicides, suicides and dead bodies,’ that was her specialty,” Bandor said.
Loch climbed the ranks to become the German equivalent of a deputy chief. She now has a shot to become the head of the Gera police agency. In November, she’ll take an exam that, among other things, will test her English, a language used widely throughout Europe.
Loch said she learned English in school, but for the past 20 years, she’s had few chances to speak it.
On Sunday afternoon, Loch, Bandor and Bandor’s 19-year-old daughter chatted and laughed as they toured Fort Wayne’s rivers on a fan boat. Skimming across the water, the 3,600-pound boat banked hard around turns and hugged sandbars exposed by low water.
Later that day, Bandor had planned a cookout for Loch, so she could practice her English by talking to as many people as possible.