Governor rejects Gary mayor’s request for state troopers; report slams GPD
Post-Tribune staff report October 3, 2013 10:02PM
Gary Police Dept. officers stand at parade rest during the annual Gary Police Department Fallen Officers Memorial Service held outside the Gary Public Safety Facility in Gary, Ind., Friday, May 31, 2013. Since 1921, 14 Gary officers have lost their lives in the line of duty. | Guy Rhodes~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 5, 2013 6:40AM
GARY — Help for Gary and its police department will not come in the form of boots on the ground from Indiana State Police.
Instead, in a letter released Thursday night, Gov. Mike Pence offered assistance with training, evidence issues and technology. And a review of any progress in December.
In July, Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson asked Pence to send 60 troopers to patrol in the city in an effort to reduce violent crime. But the governor chose to conduct an assessment of the police department before making a commitment.
The 13-page report that accompanies Pence’s offer praises both police officers and civilian staff who “perform, and want to continue to perform, quality work.”
But their efforts are hampered, the report states, because “they feel they are getting swallowed up in an environment of apathy; political favoritism; low pay and benefits; poor relations with the community; and poor relationships with their command and their fellow officers, some of whom have been involved in criminal activity.”
The first sentence of the report states, “There is a profound lack of direction authority and discipline within the GPD; an equally profound lack of respect for authority by the rank and file; a lack of supervisor training and accountability; and open undermining of the chief’s authority.”
City spokeswoman Chelsea Whittington did not immediately respond to an email from the Post-Tribune seeking comment on the letter and report.
Although Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson previously denied she is involved in the police department’s daily operations, many officers believe otherwise. While many officers supported the mayor’s candidacy, their hopes for change diminished when Freeman-Wilson’s longtime associate, Cpl. Sean Jones, was appointed commander.
Jones is a convicted felon who obtained a pardon during his hiring process. Employees who spoke to the assessment team, consisting of state police and members of local law enforcement, questioned Jones’ “credibility, competence and overall motives.” The report suggests that Jones should be replaced.
Other commanders also received criticism. “Orders from high-level command are often ignored with no follow-up to ensure the orders are carried out. ... It is common perception some members of command staff are intentionally ignoring orders and even circumventing the current chief’s directions for their own political gain.”
Many officers complain among themselves that too many commanders have little supervisory experience because they have obtained only a corporal’s rank.
Training for all officers, but especially those with rank, is woefully inadequate. Pence’s letter said Indiana State Police will provide, at no cost, training refresher courses for all officers and, for administrators, help with strategic planning, record keeping and department policies. The report notes the assessment team waited three hours for five personnel files from the training division, and enclosed documentation was inconsistent.
Other recommendations include:
Transfer officers from the airport, the mayor’s detail, federal task forces, motor pool and other nonpolice duties and use them in patrol.
Allocate police personnel based on calls for service and community needs.
Keep better records of training, equipment and expenditures.
Conduct performance evaluations and provide career goal opportunities
Revamp the department’s standard operating procedures and enforce them uniformly.
Increase the number of field training officers and establish a standard training policy.