Firefighter who’s also county reserve cop reprimanded for pulling over federal worker
Post-Tribune staff report May 1, 2013 4:50PM
Updated: June 3, 2013 3:31PM
GARY — Gary Fire Capt. Joseph Jamrok wasn’t on any Lake County police roster on April 15 when he stopped a federal employee and issued a warning ticket for speeding.
If he was supposed to be on duty at the fire department, city officials aren’t saying.
Jamrok, one of the first to become a member of the Lake County police reserve unit in 2008, was in his own car, a gray Dodge Durango, decked out with red and blue police lights, when he pulled over the federal worker at the interchange between Interstates 65 and 94.
He accused the driver of weaving in and out of traffic and said he would issue a ticket for using a cell phone, even though the city ordinance can only be enforced by city officers.
Sources say it’s not the first time Jamrok has used his limited police powers for similar activity. After learning of the latest incident, Lake County Sheriff John Buncich ordered an investigation and pulled Jamrok’s reserve status until the matter was examined.
Late Tuesday, Buncich said a letter of reprimand is in Jamrok’s file, and the reserve officer must undergo retraining. “He will be reminded about what he can and cannot do,” Buncich said. The sheriff also ordered Jamrok to remove the police lights from his family car.
When the incident occurred, city spokesperson Chelsea Whittington said it was under investigation. Whittington replied to subsequent inquiries by the Post-Tribune with, “The city declined comment on personnel matters,” refusing to even say if Jamrok was, as rumor holds, assigned to a fire station that day.
Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson cited the state’s public access law regarding personnel matters. In an email to the Post-Tribune the mayor said the law protects the city from making comment and she did not appreciate remarks about her administration’s lack of transparency in government. “Please refrain from trying to bully us in the future,” the mayor wrote.
Federal authorities, however, are aware of the incident.
Jamrok did not immediately return a message left by the Post-Tribune.
Police remind drivers that if they are not sure that they are being stopped by an actual police officer, they should call 911 or turn on flashers and drive slowly to a public location.
Portage police administrators have issued warnings about improper traffic stops in that city.