GARY | A veteran retired Gary police officer is grateful to be one the six nominees vying for the 2013 Drum Major Award.
Joseph Slay Jr., 70, considers himself a winner no matter who brings home the coveted award presented Saturday by the Gary Frontiers Service Club.
"We're all winners just by being recognized for our service," Slay said.
A native of Mobile, Ala., Slay moved to Gary because he needed a job in 1967 after serving three years with the U.S. Army, 101st Airborne Division.
"I moved to Gary on May 27, 1967, and remember the date because it was my birthday," Slay said.
Slay stayed with a cousin and quickly got employment at what was then called Inland Steel.
His Gary police career didn't start until six years later, on Sept. 1, 1973.
Slay said he made the switch to become a police officer because it offered him an opportunity to help the community.
He started in the patrol division, but quickly moved up the ranks while raising a family and even working a second security job at both the Methodist Hospitals Northlake Campus in Gary and St. Mary Medical Center in Hobart.
"I didn't get a lot of sleep," Slay joked.
In his 31 years served with the Gary Police Department, Slay held every rank, including chief of police, with the exception of deputy chief and captain.
Slay retired on Dec. 7, 2004.
The case that Slay counts as the most memorable in his career was when he and his partner George Bradley put together the case involving serial killers Alton Coleman and Debra Brown.
Coleman and Brown went on a murderous crime spree in Gary in June of 1984 that included the brutal murder of Tamika Turks, 7, and the sexual assault of a 9-year-old relative, Slay said.
It's one of the homicide cases he handled that he can never forget because it involved children.
"It's heart-wrenching to see someone hurt a child or the very elderly. They're victimized," Slay said.
Although most people focus on the negative side of serving as a police officer, Slay said there is also a positive side.
"The job is also based on service to the community and the awesome thing about being a police officer is that you get to help in a number of areas," Slay said.
Slay said he is continuing that service to the community, including awarding scholarships to high school students and providing food to the needy, through his membership as a Mason.
Slay and Mattie, his wife of 35 years, traveled to Nassau, Bahamas, in 1992 when he was elevated to the last and final 33rd degree of the Scottish Rite Free Masonry.
The couple has five daughters, including granddaughter Jada Slay, whom they adopted; seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.