Rich James: Portage in good hands with Velazquez, Becker
August 25, 2011 9:52PM
Updated: November 4, 2011 10:11AM
Jim Snyder is slick.
Most people who run mortgage companies are.
But he’s also wrong and needs to be told.
Snyder is the Republican candidate for Portage mayor.
He’s facing Mayor Olga Velazquez, just as he did four years ago when he narrowly lost.
Snyder is trying to make the Police Department and public safety one of the key issues of his campaign.
You get the impression that Velazquez has let the Police Department go to hell and that crime is running rampant. Just the opposite.
And, unfortunately for Portage, Snyder has put city police officers at center stage of his campaign.
Snyder is walking arm-in-arm with members of the Police Department as he goes door-to-door around the city stumping for votes.
That’s the last thing any candidate for mayor should do.
Injecting police officers into the frontline of politics compromises those cops and jeopardizes the city.
Snyder says he received the unanimous endorsement of the Portage Fraternal Order of Police, although there is a question as to how many of the members were invited to the endorsement vote.
So bent is Snyder on ripping Velazquez on public safety that he talks about the Police Department being closed to the public at times, including New Year’s Day of 2010.
Snyder said that there are times when residents must use a phone in the station lobby to talk to police.
That is in the wee hours of the morning when it would make little sense to have a clerk on duty.
My gosh. Petty things like that shouldn’t even be a campaign issue.
What’s really confusing about the cops backing Snyder is that they don’t really say why, other than they think Snyder would be a better leader and they want the ability to communicate openly with the mayor’s office.
Given that a Police Department is a quasi-military operation, you go through the chain of command to talk to the boss.
Snyder is a bright guy but he doesn’t know a lick about law enforcement. Maybe that’s because he is in the mortgage business. Maybe because he’s still wet behind the ears.
While Snyder is trying to make public safety a cornerstone of his campaign, it also is the very reason he shouldn’t be mayor.
The most important thing Velazquez did after being elected mayor was to appoint Mark Becker as police chief.
Becker was a career FBI agent who retired from the federal agency to take the police chief’s job.
I know I’ll step on somebody’s toes, but it needs to be said. Becker is the best police chief in Northwest Indiana. There aren’t many better around the state.
Becker is extremely bright, strong and driven, yet compassionate.
He has a locker full of recognitions from his FBI days.
He was one of the best at pursuing white-collar crime and later tracked down and helped send Gary gangs to prison. That’s the kind of guy you ought to like as your chief in an ever-changing world.
Velazquez in her campaign literature says that burglary is down 28 percent, vehicle theft is down 41 percent and stolen property is down 46 percent.
Those numbers are attributable to the men and women of the Police Department. The same ones who call Becker “chief” every day.
So, if Snyder is elected mayor, he will dump Becker as the police chief because, well, because he can.
It doesn’t matter that it would be a terribly wrong thing to do.
I don’t know that I could vote for someone for mayor who had judgment that poor.
Rich James’ column
appears on Fridays.