By David Denson, Gary Crusader
The issue of residency requirements for Gary police and firefighters continues to be a subject of concern. State law allows police and fire personnel to reside outside of the city where they work. Complicating the problem is the number of police officers leaving the Gary Police Department to seek employment with other Police Departments that pay more than Gary.
Several months ago Sixth District Councilwoman LaVetta Sparks-Wade attempted to sponsor legislation to address the problem. She proposed to give Gary residents extra points on the entrance exam. Sparks-Wade asked that the legislation be tabled in favor of working with the city administration and the heads of the police and fire departments to find a better solution.
During a meeting last month with police and firefighters, several ideas were suggested to induce current and future public safety employees to move into the city. Among the ideas discussed were affordable housing and financial inducements.
Earlier discussions regarding the residency question have centered on ways to address the state law that allows pubic safety employees to live outside the cities where they work. Several members of the City Council have expressed interest in the issue and a meeting of the council’s Public Safety Committee suggested that the Attorney General’s office be contacted for a legal opinion. Sparks-Wade asked Rep. Vernon Smith to contact the Attorneys General’s office to get a response.
Smith said he sent a letter to the Attorney General’s office two weeks ago but hasn’t received a reply. He said that the request is to sees if Gary city official’s case has merit in imposing the residency requirements. “Haven’t had any response as of yet. It usually takes a while, they don’t normally give a prompt response State officials tend to work at their own pace in making sure that the option is legitimate,” said Smith.
Although he thinks the opinion will support the current law, he thinks their analysis may be useful in helping the city solve the problem.
Sparks-Wade is still hopeful that a resolution to the problem can be reached. Last month she met with members of the police and fire departments in an effort to bring more public safety employees back into the city.’
Despite the effort to change the law dealing with the issue, Sparks-Wade is not optimistic that legislation with be advanced to change the residency requirements.