Then and now: assessing Gary's police needs

2013-08-17T00:00:00Z 2013-08-17T13:19:06Z Then and now: assessing Gary's police needsChristine Kraly christine.kraly@nwi.com, (219) 933-4195 nwitimes.com

Fifteen years ago, a scathing review of Gary's police practices all but advised the Police Department to start from scratch.

"To meet its obligations to protect its citizens, the GPD must be massively overhauled," a 1998 review by the International Association of Chiefs of Police stated.

Now, as the Steel City again seeks help in policing its streets, the report could shed light on how the department and city have heeded advice in the past, or play a role in how they're reviewed for the future.

Amid a spike in homicides, Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson and Gary Police Chief Wade Ingram recently asked Gov. Mike Pence to send 60 state troopers to the city for 90 days.

This month, Pence agreed to provide technical assistance, which is coming in the form of an assessment team composed of various departments, from police in Michigan City to Marion County.

Indiana State Police Capt. David Bursten said while it's not possible to theorize what will be assessed, "it is reasonable to expect the past review ... will be examined and analyzed to see if there are similarities between past and current issues affecting the Gary Police Department."

Then-Mayor Scott King said recently the report stemmed from his fight to keep federal COPS funding flowing to the city. The Department of Justice advised the city to commission the review, which it did at its own expense, King said.

The report advised that an infusion of resources alone could not help cure the department's ills. "The potential benefits of the resources will be marginalized if not accompanied by revolutionary changes in police management, police operations, and community control of police operations," the report stated.

Pence seems to be echoing that sentiment in Gary's latest request, asking Freeman-Wilson to provide details on "how the state assistance you have requested will fit into your longer-term plans for self-sufficiency."

Among IACP's previous advice to Gary was to focus on community policing.

Ingram has emphasized the importance of community policing, and Freeman-Wilson cited it as a key element in the city's plan to abate growing violence.

The report suggested increasing the number of sworn officers to 293. Today, the department has 222 officers, which is actually slightly more officers per capita than levels in 1998.

IACP suggested that "immediate and effective interventions must occur" to stem's the city's crime. King said the city implemented some of the report's 225 recommendations, but he did not recall specific initiatives.

Within a few years following the report, King replaced his police chief with Garnett Watson, the then-head of the Lake County High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, who made sweeping changes to the department.

Bursten said the current assessment could be completed within four to six weeks, at which point it will be presented to Freeman-Wilson. 

Because Freeman-Wilson requested the assistance, Bursten said, "it's reasonable to expect as many recommendations as possible will be implemented."

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