EAST CHICAGO | Nine new police officers were hired Thursday, Police Chief Mark Becker said.
He said the officers are evidence of the department's continued commitment to increase its presence in neighborhoods and business corridors.
"I look forward to the additional resources, which will allow us to continue with our aggressive community outreach program and maintain our efforts via the East Chicago and the Region STOP Team and allow us to pursue innovative approaches ...," Becker said.
The hires will bring the staffing level to 99 officers. Becker said the department's targeted staffing level is 98 and is currently at 90. He said they anticipate being down one more officer in the next several months and are being proactive.
Becker said when he became chief more than two years ago, the staffing recommendation was 101 officers. He believed if the department were more proactive than reactive, it could get by with 98.
Becker said the crime rate is lower than it's been in roughly 20 years and, "I feel pretty good about that."
Becker said what's impressive about the new hires is, they're the most highly educated he's seen, with some earning master's degrees.
"For local law enforcement to have police officers have master's degrees is pretty remarkable," he said. "We'll see if that education equates to common sense and the ability to deal with people.
"Book smarts is one thing, street smarts another thing. (But) we're certainly not going to turn that down."
The new recruits will attend the Northwest Indiana Law Enforcement Academy in Hobart in July, with graduation in November.
"I am proud of the efforts of the men and women of this department and the successes they have attained," Becker said.
The officers will be sworn in by Mayor Anthony Copeland at 1 p.m. June 13 in council chambers. The public is invited to attend.