Kimberly Wagner has never been a police officer.
But she has been on the inside of police work as much as anyone can without actually being on the force.
The 36-year-old’s father is a retired Fort Wayne police officer. Her brother-in-law is an officer.
She has dozens of friends who are officers, and she’s been on dozens of ride-alongs to see just what police deal with every day.
"The general population just does not understand what officers face day to day," Wagner said. "There’s a disconnect as far as what their expectations are for officers and what they do."
Wagner grew up in Fort Wayne and is now a limited-term lecturer at IPFW in the department of public policy.
Her personal interest in police work is turning into research, she said, as she’s taught some criminal justice classes part time.
As far as whether the violence in Baltimore or Ferguson, Missouri, could erupt here, Wagner is not naive. Of course it can, she said.
Anything could have a flash point, though she does not believe the Fort Wayne community would necessarily react with rioting as seen in other places.
And while she is not a police apologist, Wagner believes officers in this part of the state are well-trained and that police and government leaders are in tune with the community and have made a push to embrace diversity.
A testament to their training, she said, was demonstrated in 2013 when the city reported a record number of homicides. Four of those more-than-40 killings came at the hands of police – but each was ruled justifiable by Allen County prosecutors.
"They know when to use force when necessary," Wagner said.
Among her police officer friends are three who have been involved in high-profile shootings in recent years, she said. And while those killings take a toll on the victims’ families that should not be diminished, Wagner noted that what many people don’t see is the toll it takes on the police officers.
"You never hear about the toll it takes on them," Wagner said. "You hardly get to hear the officers’ sides of the story or their families’."