EDITORIAL: Gary urged to police its police department

2013-10-07T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: Gary urged to police its police department nwitimes.com
October 07, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson asked Indiana Gov. Mike Pence for help in cleaning up the city's crime problem. What she received instead was help in cleaning up the police department.

It is a report the mayor should take to heart.

The report on Gary Police Department issues released Thursday by the Indiana State Police and Pence found plenty of problems at the department. Pence offered state police assistance for training, technology review and as an evidentiary pipeline between Gary and the State Crime Lab.

Other recommendations involve freeing Chief Wade Ingram to make drastic reforms and freeing up money for additional officers and equipment. The City Council must accomplish this.

The city budgeted for 246 officers, but only 236 positions are funded, according to the report. And only 222 officers are on the force.

Equipment issues stem from inadequate financing from the City Council. The city lacks a replacement schedule for police cars, for example, and has purchased them through grants. A majority of the patrol vehicles are 2010 models or older. The average mileage for newer models is about 47,000, and the remainder of the fleet averages about 99,500 miles.

Some of the vehicles have bald tires. "Officers informed us they were told there was no money for new or replacement tires," the report said.

Ensuring the safety of officers as well as the public should be a primary concern, and that includes providing safe vehicles.

The report takes issue with how the officers are deployed, too. Gary has 40 percent of its staff dedicated to uniform patrol operations, but the national recommendation is 60 percent, the report said. Redeployment is warranted.

Discipline is an issue, which can and should be addressed with a whole host of reforms.

The report should be used as a catalyst for Ingram to do the necessary shake-ups in the department.

A qualified but independent group is needed to review the recommendations and find workable solutions for the Gary police.

A first priority is to let Ingram -- who is a good cop -- run the department without outside pressure. The chief must run the department without usual Lake County-style political influence. 

Empower Wade to make the necessary changes that will improve the department and its response to the city's crime problems.

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