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Last updated: Fri. Dec. 13, 2013 - 12:11 pm EDT

Fort Wayne on verge of hiring city's first black police chief

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FORT WAYNE — Fort Wayne is poised to hire its first black police chief.

The leaders of the city's Urban League and Black Chamber of Commerce said Thursday that Garry A. Hamilton had been chosen as the city's next chief.

Jonathan Ray, president and CEO of Fort Wayne Urban League, said he spoke to Hamilton by phone Thursday to congratulate him.

"He told me he's excited about his new position and said he's looking forward to taking ownership of the role," Ray said.

Current Police Chief Rusty York could neither confirm nor deny that Hamilton had been chosen. York, who has served as chief for nearly 14 years, was appointed this month to the new position of public safety director.

Fort Wayne city spokesman John Perlich said he didn't have any information Thursday about whether Hamilton had been chosen. It's not yet known when the city will make the formal announcement regarding a new police chief.

Hamilton, a native of Fort Wayne, joined the Fort Wayne Police Department in August 1994. He is a 1980 graduate of Northrop High School – he graduated with Ray at Northrop – and a Manchester College graduate.

He currently serves as deputy chief of the Southeast Division, a position he has held since last year.

Hamilton's appointment would mark the first time in the department's history that a black man would lead as police chief.

John Dortch, president of the Fort Wayne Black Chamber of Commerce, said that when he learned Hamilton was in the running for police chief, he emailed York to share his support for a man he says is "outstanding."

"I wrote and I said, 'If not him, then who, and if not now, then when?' and I sent that to Rusty," he said. "I wanted them to take a serious look at Garry, not because he's black but because he's got a lot to offer this city."

Dortch declined to say who told him Hamilton had been selected, but he said news was spreading quickly and Hamilton had plenty of support.

City Councilman Geoff Paddock, D-5th, echoed Dortch's support of Hamilton. Paddock said he hadn't heard official news Thursday but was aware that Hamilton was a strong candidate for the position.

"I think he's very qualified," Paddock said. "He's served for a long time with the Fort Wayne Police Department and has a lot of credibility with the community."

Ray said Hamilton's success as a leader is due to his ability to do whatever it takes to get the job done.

"Having him as a chief makes me feel hopeful," Ray said.

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