Working the beat in Times Square, officer Michael Pascual probably never once gave Fort Wayne a thought as he gave directions and often thrilled tourists when he went into full-blown New York accent.
But when Pascual's wife came home and said she'd found her dream job as a librarian in the Allen County Public Library genealogy section, he had one reaction: “That's amazing.”
“I knew that was the job she wanted because she (Beth Pascual) was referred to it by a professor at St. John's University,” a university in Queens, New York, where Pascual, 29, was born and raised.
After five years with the New York Police Department, he is now an officer with the Fort Wayne Police Department, one of two officers who just finished six weeks of training after transferring from other police agencies outside Indiana. He is on the road with field training officer Stephanie Souther.
The other officer coming from a big city is Zachary Gould, 33, an officer since 2018 with the Sacramento Police Department in California.
“There are definitely differences,” Pascual said, contrasting New York policing with Fort Wayne.
“The challenge was seeing what was the same, what was similar and what was done differently,” said Pascual, who spent one year as a corrections officer on Rikers Island and then as a police officer on patrol in the 32nd Precinct of Harlem before moving to Times Square. Pascual also served in the Army National Guard from 2013 to last year, when he joined the Air Force Reserves.
“The basics of policing are pretty much the same. The verbiage is different,” Pascual said. He said he loved interacting with many Times Square visitors, adding “no New Yorker ever goes to Times Square anyway.”
“The New Year's Eve ball – that is one of the most overrated attractions in the world,” but he admits it's “part of the collective American consciousness.”
While three of the department's five officers who transferred are from Indiana, Gould carefully researched the country before he found his heart and soul in the Hoosier State.
A graduate of University of California at Santa Barbara with a degree in business economics, he spent seven years in the financial industry before he “got that call that this is where I need to be.
“I definitely felt that very strongly, walked away from a good job with good hours and uncapped salary potential,” Gould said. He joined the Sacramento department in 2018 and spent most of his time on patrol on late nights and early mornings serving in both the inner city and suburbs.
But when Gould saw challenges to qualified immunity in New York and a movement to do the same in California, he started to look elsewhere.
Qualified immunity shields police from civil suits in cases of alleged misconduct.
“If you're going to, by policy or law, push me into a position where doing this job is unreasonable ... it's almost handcuffing an officer by way of policy and law,” Gould said.
He interviewed in Lafayette and Fort Wayne before deciding on northeast Indiana. Gould said he found “both the community (of Fort Wayne) as well as the department was somewhere I felt I wanted to be.”
He prefers to keep his private life private but said he left close family back in California.
“They were shocked. They said 'you're not actually going to move?' And I said, 'yeah, I'm actually going to move.'”
He kind of likes the weather here.
“I do know that winters are different,” Gould said. “I will say summers are much more agreeable. I will take the high 80s you have here any day.” In Sacramento, summer heat reaches the high 90s and into the 100s, “and it doesn't really cool off at night.”
Getting around is practically a joy after living in New York, Pascual said. “The roads weren't meant to handle 81/2million people. Here it's mostly free flowing. It doesn't take more than 30 minutes to get anywhere within the confines of Fort Wayne,” Pascual said.
The pace is slower here, too, he said. In New York, police work was more hectic. Many of the police calls he got as a New York officer were not police matters.
“In New York, there were a lot of animal control calls. Animal control is rarely available in New York. Here, animal control is very proactive in calls related to animal issues,” Pascual said.
Gould also appreciates the Hoosier vibe. “The people here are so nice and friendly and hold the door for you when you're walking into a store behind them,” he said.
Both eye detective roles in the future. Pascual said the few calls he got in New York regarding sex crimes still haunt him at night. For that reason, he hopes to join the sex crimes unit here.
“I never knew if they (the perpetrators) were charged or if they went to trial,” Pascual said of the cases he responded to in New York.
Gould was actively working to be part of the Sacramento gang unit and wants to do the same here where he's training with the Gang and Violent Crimes unit, he said.
“I would love to work gangs, trying to build bridges in the community and also to suppress violent crime,” Gould said.
While Pascual is looking for a good Indian or Thai restaurant, Gould is looking for a restaurant to replace Mr. Pickles, a sandwich place that offered a combo grilled chicken, pepper jack cheese, avocado, bacon, lettuce, tomato and onion with a “garlic sauce that is just amazing.
“It's pretty hard to beat.”
A surprise to Pascual was the quality of the pizza. He's not big into bagels, a New York City specialty that many think owes its touted excellence to the water, but when it comes to pizza, he's a snob, he says.
“I'll say this. The pizza here is really good,” Pascual said.
Two current preferences are Blaze Pizza on Coliseum Boulevard East at Coldwater Road and a downtown New York-style pizza restaurant, Big Apple Pizza, that names its pizzas after New York's five boroughs and landmarks.
And while Pascual, who graduated from St. Francis College in Brooklyn with a major in history and a minor in theater, refers to some of his college acting gigs and likely used that talent on the streets of Times Square entertaining out-of-towners, Gould's favorite hobby is the guitar.
“I love electric guitar and have a pretty broad taste with classical music all the way up to rap, country and death metal. Beethoven, there's some serious genius there.”
Lateral Officer Training
Capt. Juan Barrientes, FWPD director of training, answers questions about lateral officers transferring from other departments.
Q. Has there been an upward trend in the number of laterals seeking to be officers here and from farther away?
A. The trend recently has shown a drop in applicants for both lateral officers and basic recruits.
Q. Any idea how many laterals have been hired in the last couple of years compared with other years?
A. Lateral officer hires and/or classes have been driven by needs of the department and goal-oriented to meet budgeted staffing requirements.
Q. Has FWPD changed its advertising strategy to get the word out about the department?
A. FWPD has instituted a robust recruiting effort assigning several officers and leveraging latest technology to attract more quality applicants.
Q. What is the full staffing number? And what are current staffing numbers for FWPD?
A. We are budgeted for 480 presently and hope to expand to 485-500 in the next year or so.
Q. So is there a range of weeks for a lateral training class? Also are you seeing more laterals apply?
A. Typically, the Lateral Officer Training Program lasts six weeks. We are adaptive and will extend or truncate based on the level of performance, training experience, street experience and other related expertise. We are not seeing a lot of lateral applicants. Nationally, the trend is for experienced officers to leave the profession. The current anti-police rhetoric discourages many, including seasoned officers, to shy away from our profession. Fortunately that is not the case here in Fort Wayne.