State assessment of Gary PD pinpoints staffing, other deficiencies

2013-10-03T20:00:00Z 2013-10-04T10:41:04Z State assessment of Gary PD pinpoints staffing, other deficienciesMarc Chase, (219) 662-5330
October 03, 2013 8:00 pm  • 

GARY | Staffing deficiencies, a pervasive lack of respect for authority and low confidence in command are plaguing Gary Police Department operations, a state report culling department employees' views concludes.

The Indiana State Police and Gov. Mike Pence released the final review of the Police Department on Thursday night. The document, which purports to have included interviews with more than 40 different officers or other Police Department employees, was conducted under the order of Pence after Gary officials sought help in the wake of a spike in violent crime earlier this year.

The report states that a number of the department staff interviewed reported lacking confidence in unnamed commanders within the department.

And an earlier draft of the report obtained by The Times this week stated the ranks of officers interviewed particularly took issue with a commander accused of having a past criminal conviction. The final report recommends replacing that commander.

The report further concludes: "There is a profound lack of direction, authority and discipline within the GPD; an equally profound lack of respect for authority by the rank in file; a lack of supervisor training and accountability; and open undermining of the chief's authority."

In a letter dated Thursday to Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, Pence pledged free Indiana State Police training support for Gary officers, help in processing evidence and a further review to develop recommendations for improving the department's information technology.

In the report, the Gary Police Department Assessment Team — including personnel from the Lake County prosecutor's office, a regional drug enforcement team and the U.S. attorney's office — makes several recommendations in the categories of department staffing, budget, training and equipment.

The report concludes that too many Gary police officers are dedicated to duties outside of the frontline patrol division.

The national average for police agencies shows that 60 percent or more of a department's total staff should be dedicated to police patrols, the report states. However, Gary's department dedicates only 40 percent of its officers to patrol, according to the report.

The report states more than 40 of the department's 222 uniformed officers are dedicated to special functions outside of patrol, including 15 officers serving on various task forces, three officers deployed to the Gary airport and 13 officers serving the front desk and detention areas.

The department also has 48 civilian staff members contributing to its total staffing.

The report recommends placing some of these officers, including the three officers dedicated to the airport, back into the patrol division.

It also notes the department's investigations division contains 59 officers. The report recommends consolidating that portion of the staff's duties and returning some of the personnel to patrol.

Gary Police Chief Wade Ingram declined to comment on the report Thursday, saying he had not seen its contents. Ingram had been hoping for aid — at least temporarily — in the form of Indiana State troopers to help with patrols. No such aid is mentioned in the final report.

In terms of the department's $13.4 million annual operating budget, the earlier draft report concludes that overtime was "significantly over budget" in 2011 and 2012.

Some of this may result from the department's being budgeted for 246 officers but employing 222.

The report recommends hiring officers to the full budgeted level as a means to cut back on overtime of an understaffed department.

The report also notes problems created by an aging and high-mileage fleet of police vehicles and perceived training deficiencies.

The report notes patrol vehicles — numbering about 95 — are all 2010 models or older with an average of about 99,500 miles.

"The Police Department is in need of a program to purchase a minimum number of vehicles per year," the report concludes. "Currently, most of the vehicles purchased in the last few years have been purchased using grant money, except recently when the top commanders, select officers and the mayor received new vehicles allegedly from the Police Department's budget."

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