By Chief Larry McKinley, Gary Police Department
Recently, the Northwest Indiana Times published an editorial indicating that the Gary Police Department should not embark on a community effort to establish a civilian review or advisory board, but should focus on the suggestions made after the “damning report” from the Indiana State Police. The editorial was uninformed and shortsighted, especially given the context of the report and the accounts of progress that have appeared in the Northwest Indiana Times since 2013.
The review that led to the report was done after requests to Governor Mike Pence and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in July 2013. Governor Pence’s response was to conduct an assessment that resulted in the Indiana State Police report. Attorney General Holder’s response was to connect the city of Gary with the Office of Justice Program’s Diagnostic Center, a new initiative available to communities, which resulted in an assessment, technical assistance and funding from DOJ.
After receiving those reviews and assistance, the city administration and Gary Police Department have been diligent in their work. First there were significant changes to departmental leadership. (NWI Times July 28, 2014). One of the objectives from the new leadership was to address police compensation. (NWI Times, August 8, 2015) Additionally, the city of Gary was one of six cities chosen as a part of a national initiative on Building Police and Community Trust (NWI Times, October 2, 2015). As a result, the city of Gary Police Department began working with the John Jay College of Criminal Justice for training in Group Violence Intervention, procedural justice, clearing cold cases and the use of technology. They have also enjoyed unprecedented cooperation with law enforcement agencies at the federal, state and local level including the DEA, ATF, Indiana State Police and Lake County Police Department. These efforts have also been an integral part of the Gary for Life multi-faceted approach to crime with community, employment, education, prevention, blight elimination and law enforcement. (NWI Times, July 28, 2014).
A key aspect of building trust between police officers and the community is promoting positive interaction between police personnel and citizens and helping the community understand the respective roles of the police and citizens in public safety. To this end, we are exploring different methods that will facilitate public input. In many communities, that occurs through the use of a civilian review board. Recently, the city administration agreed to work with an ad hoc committee including police personnel, clergy, local members of Black Lives Matter and others to determine the best format for citizen involvement. This concept is supported by both the OJP review and the 21st Century Community Policing Task Force commissioned by President Barack Obama.
The efforts of the Gary Police Department have yielded early positive results including a reduction in most crime categories, improved solve rates and increased public awareness and involvement in public safety. While there are many more miles to go, we understand that societal changes require a new approach to policing and given that realization, the Gary Police Department is “all in” and invites the community to join us.