Friday’s announcement naming Indiana State Police Major Jerry Williams as Gary’s interim Chief of Police came eight months after Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter committed to a partnership with Gary Mayor Jerome Prince.
That partnership pledged to create a task force and review the operations and procedures of the city’s police department. Originally, the task force was given a life expectancy of 90-120 days.
“I’m excited to have Chief Williams on board to guide our police department in new directions,” Prince said.
“Jerry has a proven record of leadership and integrity, and he’s been an integral part of our work in improving the Gary Police Department for our officers, residents and businesses.”
The search for a new Gary police chief was one of the task force’s missions, headed by Williams, at its inception in April.
“Chief Williams is clearly the right person for the job at the right time,” Prince said. By selecting Williams, the mayor set aside the three finalists from the national search.
Williams, a 30-plus year state police veteran now on leave-of-absence, said he couldn’t think of a better place to call home. His first job in law enforcement was with the Gary Police Department.
Williams headed a task force of personnel from the state police, Lake County Prosecutor’s Office, Gary Police Civil Service Commission, Gary’s Fraternal Order of Police, and attorneys from the City of Gary Law Department.
The task force review found deep divisions in the GPD’s structure and culture. Morale and trust in leadership were low, and discipline was not uniform.
The task force proposed 17 ordinances, changing the city’s municipal code governing the police department.
During city council hearings on the ordinances, Superintendent Carter said, “There is a lot of doubt within the department about what discipline means. I think a number of officers think discipline is subjective. Some think the chief doesn’t have the authority to discipline like he or she should. That ambiguity affects morale and performance, and creates divisiveness in the department.”
The ordinances gave more responsibilities to the police chief to hire, fire, and discipline officers, effectively decreasing the powers of the police commissioners.
Mayor Prince said, “Chief Williams will implement the structure set up in the past months and I will rely on him to determine the Gary Police Department’s leadership plans over the long term.”
Carter said the reform measures will take care of police officers, providing them a level of service they are not presently receiving.
“Our department has worked very closely with and has completed a tremendous amount of work in collaboration with the City of Gary and the Gary Police Department over the last nine months” he said.
Elaborating, he remarked, “We will continue to work alongside and support Chief Jerry Williams and his administration as we have with his predecessors. I will continue to offer any and all resources of the ISP to Chief Williams as he works to move this proud agency forward.”
“Over the last eight months I’ve been here, I know there is tremendous talent within the police department,” Williams, the newly named interim Chief of Police said.
“Our plan is to do a hard reset. What that represents to me is to create a clean slate, with all of the staff within the Gary Police Department, and literally for everybody, an opportunity for professional advancement,” Williams said.