HAMMOND — In a historic move, one of Northwest Indiana's most diverse cities named its first black police chief to lead the department on Friday.
Hammond Police Asst. Chief William "Andy" Short, who brings more than three decades of law enforcement experience to the chief's role, was first hired in 1988.
During a city news conference Friday at the Hammond Police Department that was broadcast live on Facebook, Short said he was both honored and surprised McDermott chose him to lead the department.
"I got this (police) vest on so you can't see," Short said to the crowd, while patting his hand on his chest as if to suggest his heart was beating fast.
Short will take the reins of the Hammond Police Department and its 205 officers, effectively immediately, following the resignation of current chief, John Doughty, from that position.
"I'm speechless," Short said when asked how it felt to become the city's first black police chief.
Short said that during Friday's ceremony, a young boy — maybe 4 or 5 years old — approached him and wanted to take a photo with him.
"His mother asked him if he wanted to be a police officer and he said yes. That is the change we all want to make," Short said.
Asked about his desire to recruit minorities to the profession, Short said: “I would like everyone to consider law enforcement a career choice. Yes, minorities need role models in all aspects of life. I want them to know that if they want change in the community, they need to be that change. We need all races in police work because all races need to work together to help heal our communities."
A long career
Short is a graduate from the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy. He rose up the ranks during his long career in Hammond — beginning with first-class patrolman in 1989 and second-class patrolman in 1990. He became a corporal in 1996 and was promoted to the rank of sergeant in 2000, and lieutenant in 2006.
During his years in Hammond, he worked in patrol, as a K-9 handler, in the bike patrol division, on Hammond's SWAT team, gang/narcotics unit and on the HIDTA task force in Lake County.
He also worked in internal affairs for five years, McDermott said.
Short thanked God, and his fellow officers, family and friends for the support over his 36-year career in law enforcement.
“When I came on, I didn’t have glasses, I had a lot of hair, I was able to chase people,” Short said, jokingly.
Jeffrey Long, captain of patrol, will move to assistant chief of police under Short, and Rob Bunner, lieutenant in patrol, will be moving into the position of patrol captain.
Long was hired in 1989 and has served as the patrol captain for 12 years. He previously served as assistant chief for four years, and is a veteran of the U.S. Army, and is a lifelong Hammond resident.
Bunner was hired in 1999 and was promoted to lieutenant in the patrol division in 2015. He has coordinated Hammond's Field Training Unit since 2017 and is currently a SWAT team leader.
McDermott also presented the outgoing chief, Doughty, with an honorary key to the city for his seven years heading up the department, as he leaves the high-stress position to spend more time with family.
Doughty thanked him, saying McDermott challenged him on day one when he was promoted to chief in 2014 to come up with new programs "that (have) your name on them" to bring the Hammond Police Department to a better place.
"And we've done just that, with the people to the right of me," Doughty said, gesturing to his command staff and leadership team.
Under Doughty, Hammond become one of the first cities in the state to have officers equipped with body cameras. Police agencies all across Northwest Indiana, including the FBI, take advantage of the city's license plate reader technology to solve crime.
The Academy Bound scholarship program was also created under Doughty.
It's considered one of the city’s most successful recruiting efforts, providing financial assistance to city residents unable to afford police academy tuition.
From 2017 to 2020, 12 recruits have graduated and joined the department’s ranks so far, including six minority members and one female.
According to data compiled by The Times last year, Hammond’s police force has the second-worst minority representation across Northwest Indiana, relative to its city demographics. Minorities make up 65% of the population, but account for only 22.5% of the city’s police department.
But it was worse years ago.
When McDermott first entered the mayor’s office in 2004, an even more overwhelming majority of the city’s police force was white.
Agency leaders, in Hammond and beyond, have pointed to numerous, inherit challenges in recruitment and retention in a historically white- and male-dominated career field, given the spirited debate in recent years about race relations between the African American community and law enforcement.
McDermott said he hopes Short can help Hammond reach new heights with its diversity goals and continue hiring officers who "look like Hammond residents."
"That's important to me, as mayor, and that's important to our new police chief and to the new administration," McDermott said. "And we're going to keep working on that. It's not there yet. I'm not going to sit back and say 'Look what we've done, we have it,' but every day we get a little bit closer and Chief Short's going to help us get there."
Earlier Friday, on his radio show, McDermott said Short was chosen for the role, not because of the color of his skin, but because he's "superbly qualified."
Short, who lives in Merrillville, reportedly told McDermott he was committed to moving to Hammond soon, as a city ordinance requires law enforcement leadership live within the city limits, McDermott said.
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