GARY — After months of revisions and discussions, the Gary City Council has approved the first batch of ordinances aimed at reforming the city's police department.
Five of the 17 ordinances were passed Tuesday night. The stack of legislation first came before the Common Council at the end of August, about five months after it was announced that the police department would be partnering with Indiana State Police. The goal of the partnership has been to evaluate the entire Gary Police Department and determine what changes should be made and what resources are needed.
The majority of the proposed ordinances relate to the hiring, firing, promotion and discipline of officers. The legislation also clarifies the role of the police chief. The city is in the final stretch of a months-long search for a new chief. Brian Evans, formerly the deputy chief, has been serving as interim chief for about two years.
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The Public Safety Committee held three meetings where the ordinances were reviewed at length. In the second meeting, ISP Superintendent Douglas Carter called the council's intense questioning "semantics," a characterization Godwin said was "disrespectful."
Council President William Godwin, D-1, has said the council was excluded from the creation of the ordinances.
"To draft 17 ordinances, email them and then say, let's send it to the council for quick consideration ... and then become angry when strong concerns and questions are raised ... is not a fair process," Godwin said in a statement released after the second meeting.
Previously, the Police Civil Service Commission, which consists of six appointees, led the testing and evaluation of new recruits and officers seeking promotions. The commission also led the disciplinary process. Under the new ordinance, the police chief and other leaders within the police department would be in charge of hiring, promotions and the disciplinary processes.
After multiple meetings with the council and the commission, multiple ordinances were revised to give the commission more authority. Under the amended ordinances, the commission will certify and can appeal many of the police chief's decisions.
During Tuesday's City Council meeting, five of the ordinances were passed on third and final reading. Eleven more will be voted on Nov. 15; one, relating to discipline and punishment options for officers, was withdrawn.
Godwin abstained from voting on three of the ordinances and voted "no" on two of the ordinances. Councilwoman Mary Brown, D-3, abstained from voting on four of the ordinances and voted "no" on one. The rest of the council voted "yes" on all five ordinances.
Godwin has expressed concerns about the standard operating procedures that will guide the department. The police chief will determine the SOPs, although they must be approved by the commission. Godwin noted that each new police chief will be able to change the SOPs.
Godwin also mentioned on Tuesday that the Gary Fraternal Order of Police held a vote on all of the proposed ordinances. The FOP told the council the majority of participants voted against the ordinances, although Councilman Clorius Lay, D-at large, said he would be disregarding the vote because only 73 of the 200-plus FOP members took part in it.