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Indiana State Police bids farewell to Gary

GARY MAYOR JEROME PRINCE gives the oath of office to the new Gary Chief of Police Anthony Titus.

Photo caption: GARY MAYOR JEROME PRINCE gives the oath of office to the new Gary Chief of Police Anthony Titus.

Except for the media attention it attracted and political friction it generated, Gary took it in stride last year when Mayor Jerome Prince announced a partnership with the Indiana State Police.

That was April 2022. On Friday, June 30, fifteen months later, Indiana’s State Police Supt. Doug Carter announced his department’s task was finished. And, Mayor Prince swore in 31-year GPD veteran Anthony Titus, as Gary’s new Chief of Police.

It wasn’t the first time residents had seen a Gary mayor reach out to the state police. But, this time it wasn’t for patrolling the streets and making arrests.

The mayor had asked the state police to review and improve operations inside the Gary Police Department and assist in the search for a new police chief. At that time, interim police chief Brian Evans headed the department.

At Friday’s press conference held in the Gary Public Safety Facility, Mayor Prince said his goal was to bring structure and stability to the GPD.

“Recently, I had one of many conversations with Senator Melton, the incoming mayor. And what’s extremely important is that as we all know, we establish some continuity. And it’s my opinion and certainly he has shared with me that he embraces this process,” Mayor Prince said. “We’re half way there; we got the structure done. Sen. Melton can work on the second half.”

Supt. Carter labeled the press conference as the department’s farewell to the city. “I hope that over the course of this period of time that we’ve been able to accomplish some good and maybe leave it a little bit better than we found it. That was certainly the goal,” Carter said. “While we’re going away, we’re not going to be gone. There’ll be an opportunity for the leadership to continue to lean on the ISP.”

Supt. Carter said he was proud of the outcome, creating a better work environment for the men and women of the Gary Police Department.

ISP Major Jerry Williams, on temporary leave from the department, was assigned to lead a task force of ISP officers, law enforcement and public safety employees from city and county agencies that looked at everything in the department.

Out of it came changes to the city’s municipal codes that set rules for hiring, retaining, and disciplining police officers. In response to residents request for greater police presence, more officers were added to street patrols and answering calls for service. Major Williams said that increased safety for officers had helped boost morale inside the department.

In January 2023, Prince announced Major Williams would be interim police chief for the next 6 months.

The partnership happened, Major Williams said, because the mayor took a bold step, demanding a better public safety platform for his city and community.

When the ISP partnership was announced, Prince faced criticism. The ISP has its own scandals and problems, a former GPD officer said. Why go on a national search, others said, when qualified officers already work on the Gary police force.

For Chief Titus, at times the partnership was a roller coaster ride. “I loved it and I hated it. Basically, I loved it,” Titus said. “I did not know what I did not know. Our footing today is so much surer than it has been in a number of years.”

Titus was promoted twice during the partnership. He was appointed Commander of Uniform Services and next to Deputy Police Chief.

At the press conference, Chief Titus announced more promotions. James Bond is now Deputy Chief of Police. Captain Sam Roberts is now Commander of Special Operations.

A homicide in December 2021 may have helped spur the partnership.

On the evening of Wednesday, December 8, 2021, Gary Police discovered homicide victim Mary Felton inside her vehicle, dead from gunshot wounds. Police were responding to a service call they had received at approximately 5:17pm.

Two days later, Earl Shearer was in custody and charged in Felton’s death.

The probable cause affidavit charging Shearer stated Felton had visited Gary’s Public Safety Facility and left about an hour before her death. Felton was following up on a complaint she had filed against Shearer three days earlier.

Two GPD detectives escorted Felton to her Hummer in the station’s parking lot. Felton told the detectives that a white Nissan in the parking lot was similar to Shearer’s vehicle.

The detectives looked under Felton’s vehicle, but did not look inside. Felton drove away.

After the discovery of Felton’s body, police reviewed video footage of the Public Safety Facility parking lot. It showed a man fitting Shearer’s description drive into the parking lot in a white Nissan around 3pm. The man entered the rear passenger compartment of Felton’s vehicle. Video captured later that evening showed the same man walk into the parking lot, enter the white Nissan and drive away.

The Public Safety Facility is located at 555 Polk Street; Felton’s vehicle was found near 8th Avenue and Lincoln, only a few blocks away.

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