RICH JAMES: Pence's plan for Gary left out major players

2013-08-18T00:00:00Z RICH JAMES: Pence's plan for Gary left out major playersBy Rich James nwitimes.com
August 18, 2013 12:00 am  • 

If I were Gary Police Chief Wade Ingram, I’d be embarrassed.

No, make that angry.

I think you can say the same about Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, who is working relentlessly to turn around her city.

After the mayor asked Gov. Mike Pence last month to send state troopers to the city, the governor said he would direct state police Superintendent Douglas Carter to assess Gary’s needs.

Well, the Pence patrol met last week in Lowell.

Pence told the mayor Carter’s team “will assist you in reviewing your intelligence gathering, training, command structure, budget and staffing levels.”

Here’s the kicker. Gary wasn’t among the eight agencies invited to last week’s meeting.

East Chicago Police Chief Mark Becker and Hammond Police Chief Brian Miller also got the cold shoulder. And Lake County Sheriff John Buncich was snubbed, too.

Among the eight agencies at the meeting were the Michigan City Police Department, the Porter County Sheriff’s Department and the Marion County Sheriff’s Department — not exactly experts on what ails Gary.

It seems curious the agencies most familiar with Gary’s problems — and those who in fact assist Gary on a frequent basis — weren’t invited.

Then I found out the Pence patrol was about to pound square pegs into round holes.

They are going to look at Gary’s geographical size, its population, the size of its police force, its budget and crime rate. They will throw all those statistics into a mixer and eventually say national standards recommend this and that for like-sized cities and police departments.

But what about the demographics of Gary compared to like-sized cities? It’s kind of like grading schools without considering the background of the students.

Gary will be invited to the table eventually. Maybe its neighbors, too.

But the Pence patrol could save itself a lot of time and money. While they are counting beans and shuffling pieces on a chessboard, Gary, Hammond, East Chicago and the county are about to do some innovative police work by collectively attacking the crime problem across those urban cities.

Bless them. Last I checked, crime didn’t stop at the city limits.

Those municipalities are going to launch a patrol-based task force that moves from community to community. It won’t be a temporary thing, but an ongoing wave of law enforcement.

And it will use the information gathered at traffic stops, i.e., weapons, gangs and drugs, to develop an intelligence grid to combat crime on an ongoing basis. It’s fact, not theory.

One of the participants said this might be the only place in the country where there is such an approach to violent crime.

The launching of the patrol-based task force is expected to be announced this week.

The Pence patrol ought to take notice.

Rich James has been writing about state and local government and politics for more than 30 years. Email him at rjames@219.com. The opinions are the writer’s.

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