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State to Gary: Work on your own policing problems first

The Gary Public Safety Facility also houses Gary Police Department Gary Ind. Monday November 5 2012.  | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times

The Gary Public Safety Facility also houses the Gary Police Department in Gary, Ind. Monday November 5, 2012. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 7, 2013 6:37AM



GARY — Lack of leadership, training, accountability, staffing, technology and equipment are to blame for dysfunctional operations at the Gary Police Department, a scathing Indiana State Police report concludes.

None of it is a surprise to the rank and file. They live it.

Fraternal Order of Police President Samuel Abegg, who spoke at length to the Gary Police Department Technical Assessment Team last month, said the report, released Thursday, is accurate and not shocking.

While the city’s request to the state was intended to help quell violence, Abegg said implementing recommendations in the report would result in a better-run police department and ultimately lower crime.

The state’s help was “maybe not in the form they were looking for,” Abegg said, “but proper allocation of resources and accountability can fix the problems.”

Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson sought help from the state during a spate of summer homicides, asking Gov. Mike Pence for state troopers to assist on the streets for three months. The city has recorded 41 homicides this year. In 1995, a year when homicides reached an all-time record of 132, then-Mayor Thomas Barnes made a similar request of then-Gov. Evan Bayh, who sent 50 troopers.

But Republican Pence delayed his answer, then announced the formation of a technical team from ISP and other law enforcement agencies to investigate before he’d take any action. The committee interviewed 40 people — sworn officers, civilians and others in the community — focusing on staffing, equipment, training and budget. All four were sadly lacking.

Pence wrote a letter saying he would provide training assistance in three areas, then revisit the department’s progress in December.

Freeman-Wilson and Chief Wade Ingram issued a statement Friday, thanking Pence.

“We will review all external input and offers to assist as we move forward to access the help needed and make the changes that we deem appropriate,” the statement reads. City spokesperson Chelsea Whittington said no further comments will be made until administrators review the report.

Specifically, ISP will arrange a refresher course for all officers, management training for administrators and specialized training for field-level supervisors. Support in evidence handling and technology are also on the list.

The final report cited as its primary concerns:

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.” (The last line is in bold type.)

“Critical deficiencies with record keeping and a lack of electronic records in virtually all aspects of department operations.”

“Current allocation of police personnel is not based on calls for service or community needs.”

The report notes that many officers exhibited a “general lack of confidence” in their commanders and suggests the chief should have ultimate authority to appoint his command staff based on recommendations by an impartial board.

City ordinance allows the mayor to name the deputy chief, who is Cpl. Larry McKinley. Appointing corporals and sergeants with no experience in supervision to command spots is a long-standing complaint against this administration. But the hardest blow came when Cpl. Sean Jones was named commander of special operations.

Jones was a correctional officer at the Indiana State Prison in 1993 when he was arrested by ISP in a sting operation for drug trafficking. Jones tried to bribe troopers to escape prosecution. Later, Freeman-Wilson hired him to work at drug court, but changed his duties when she learned he was carrying a handgun. He had been issued a gun permit because he did not mention his felony conviction on the application. Although felons cannot be police officers, Jones obtained a pardon shortly before he was sworn in as a Gary officer in 2000. State police have consistently opposed his efforts to expunge the criminal record.

The report recommends that Jones be replaced.

It also suggests implementation of performance evaluations, more training for supervisors and creating an accurate organizational chart. These are very similar to recommendations made by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, which conducted an extensive study of the department in 1998.

Record-keeping within the department is mostly on paper, and the assessment team had difficulty obtaining records as part of its review.

“The city and the GPD had difficulty providing consistent and accurate numbers for the number of budgeted and funded officers,” the report states. The city and police department also “failed to provide financial information regarding budgeted, actual and encumbered amounts for 2011 and 2012 for the police department supportive services ... as well as 2013.” The committee did not receive information on vehicle depreciation, fuel use and cost and how much the city spends for training though it “was requested on multiple occasions.”

After Ingram was named chief, he ordered everyone to attend roll call at the beginning of their assigned shifts. That practice was patently ignored by some from the beginning and eventually disregarded altogether. The report says failure to attend roll call “cripples the effect of vital information being disseminated” and recommends that roll call be mandatory and enforced.

Training for supervisors should be mandatory, and the department’s standard operating procedures are outdated and ignored, the report states. The department must accurately track use of cars and maintain them better. Study team members saw “multiple vehicles with bald tires,” the report states.

The department is down 24 officers from its approved roster, and the patrol division is woefully short-handed. Nationally, police departments employ 60 percent of their force in patrol. In Gary, it’s closer to 40 percent. A new class of 10 recruits should be sworn in soon, and the city is accepting applications for new officers through October. A federal grant will fund salaries for 10 new officers once the city reaches its full staffing of 235 officers. Meanwhile, the report suggests cutting the number of officers on various task forces, combine Gary’s drug unit with the FBI-led Gang Response Investigative Team and use reserve officers during peak crime times.

Abegg said while city officials may have hoped for physical assistance instead of technical advice, the state apparently wants Gary to fix its own problems first.

“It looks like ultimately that’s what they were getting at,” he said.



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