Mobbed by reporters and well-wishers alike, Garry Hamilton received a hefty dose of the public spotlight Thursday.
Sworn in as the city’s new police chief amid a packed house at Citizens Square, Hamilton officially took the reins of the department from former Chief Rusty York.
York, who had been chief for 14 years, was sworn in as the city’s new director of public safety.
But much of the attention was focused on Hamilton, with community members, judges, prosecutors and fellow officers showing up for the ceremony.
A smattering of those who arrived even a few minutes early had to watch from the hallway, craning their necks to see the proceedings through the courtroom’s windows.
Hamilton joined the force in 1994. He began as a patrol officer before rising through the ranks to sergeant, captain and deputy chief.
Hamilton is also the first black police chief in Fort Wayne’s history.
His tenure begins after a year in which Allen County at least tied the record number of 44 homicides. One case the county coroner has yet to rule on could push that total to 45.
It also comes in the aftermath of several shootings that spanned New Year’s Day in Fort Wayne, leaving three men and a woman seriously wounded.
When asked about his plans, Hamilton told reporters he wanted the police force to become more community oriented and to get officers out to the public more often. He also said he planned to hit crime.
Also sworn in Thursday was Hamilton’s assistant police chief, Steven Reed, who had most recently was director of training at the Fort Wayne Police Academy.
Both men were pegged for the slots by York, who upon leaving his post as chief recommended them to Mayor Tom Henry.
Working with these guys for as long as I have, both are exceptional, he said.
The police chief needs to be someone who can keep a lot of plates in the air, York said.
And that person needs a detail-oriented person as his assistant chief, York said, noting that Hamilton and Reed will complement each other.
York’s job responsibilities as director of public safety will be more big picture as he works with both the police and fire departments.
He said Thursday he’s already been working with the fire department’s union on ironing out new contracts and he expects negotiations to end with both sides happy soon.
While the people who attended the ceremony thronged toward Hamilton, York, for once, found himself relegated to the background.
Typically, he’s been the center of attention where the police department is concerned, but Thursday he said he relished taking a back seat this time.
It was time for a change, he said.