Not much changed since Indiana State Police assessment of Gary department
GARY — In a high-level meeting with Indiana State Police, city officials proudly announced that the police department now has 66 percent of its officers working in patrol, compared to the weak 40 percent three months ago.
On paper, that appears to exceed the national average of 60 percent of officers on the street, answering calls and visible in the community.
But in reality, the change has been significantly less.
The state police submitted an assessment to the city on Oct. 3, after Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson asked the governor for help in patrolling the streets of Gary. Homicides have increased dramatically since last year and the department has not carried a full complement of officers in at least two years.
Gov. Michael Pence sent a technical team to study police operations, then released a report with 13 pages of suggestions. Among them was to remove Cmdr. Sean Jones from his administrative post. Jones, a close ally of the mayor’s, has a felony conviction that was pardoned, but not expunged. Pence said state police would provide “a basic training refresher at Indiana Law Enforcement Academy for all GPD officers,” as well as training for administrators and field level supervisors. To date, none of that has occurred.
Chief Wade Ingram acknowledged the training has not started, but said the state police will provide classes in crash reports for officers next year so that all street officers, not just those working in the traffic division, can complete an accident report.
As for Jones’ status, Wade said, “I’m working on that. I know it’s a distraction, it’s an issue.”
With about 227 sworn officers on the department, a total of 112, or about 49 percent, are on the daily patrol schedule. They are divided between three shifts and three off-day groups. Supervisors meet the mandated daily minimums by assigning traffic officers to patrol duties — but that does not increase the number of units, it only shift their duties.
Chief Wade Ingram’s 66 percent has been achieved much the same way. For example, 13 officers once working as support staff are are now part of uniform services. Their duties are all inside the Public Safety Facility.
Among those 13 are officers who work in the property vault and court, two were seriously injured in a struggle with a prisoner and are on medical leave, one is charged with felonies and another is waiting for the police commission to act on Ingram’s termination request.
“The actual boots on the ground is not at 66 percent,” Ingram admitted. “But overall uniform services, the number is there.”
Fraternal Order of Police President Samuel Abegg noted that while street officers can be ordered to work at the front desk, none of those workers reciprocate.
One patrol supervisor called the city’s numbers “smoke and mirrors.”
Of the 112 in patrol, 23 percent are supervisors — two captains, six lieutenants and 18 sergeants. The captains were moved from inside jobs at the front desk, an assignment often given to officers facing criminal charges or disciplinary action.
Despite suggestions by the assessment team to reduce the number of officers on various outside task forces, all 11 remain on those duties. Ingram said he chose to keep those investigators there.
“We really do need the task forces. With our contribution of one or two, we get the resources of the whole agency. I made the decision not to remove them,” he said.
Also counted toward that 66-percent figure are 10 officers hired earlier this year who start academy training in January. They won’t be street-ready for at least six months.
Abegg said he would like to see the number of bodies working the street increase. The minimum staffing requirement in the FOP contract is treated “like a maximum, and that’s not the intent. We should have 20 or 25 officers out there, not 12.”
Ingram often cites his experience as a Chicago lieutenant when talking about Gary. While Gary’s homicide rate is up 33 percent from last year at this time, Chicago is reporting decreases in crime. Chicago also spent more than $93 million in overtime this year.
“We need more overtime money,” Ingram said. “It would be nice to have 10 more officers per shift. I would like to model what Chicago is doing,” he said.