Big shake-up at Gary Police Department

March 11, 2008 3:59:27 PM PDT
The top police officer in Gary, Indiana, has resigned after his indictment by a federal grand jury. The mayor appointed a new interim chief and reassigns two other Gary Police officers.

The former chief, his top deputy chief and a sergeant are all charged with violating the civil rights of four people over the handling of a break-in at the chief's home last year. The interim chief was on the job Tuesday morning.

Gary Mayor Rudy Clay says he immediately engineered actions to maintain normal functions within the police department as soon as he learned about the indictments of the police chief and two of his top aides.

Gary Police Chief Thomas Houston and two of his administrators, deputy chief Thomas Branson and Sergeant Thomas Decanter, have been indicted following allegations of misconduct involving the treatment of suspects in a break-in at the chief's home.

"My decision to phase in the leadership transition over a few days was driven by my desire to avoid disruption of service and protection," said Mayor Clay.

The mayor said Houston has decided to retire. His resignation is effective immediately. The other two police officials, Branson and Decanter, will be reassigned to the homicide division with emphasis on cold cases.

"These actions are being taken because the indictment states the officers are innocent until proven guilty," said Mayor Clay.

Commander Lawrence Wright has been selected to fill the position of interim chief of police. Tuesday was Wright's first day as chief.

"Tom Houston and I were very close friends. I had a lot of respect for him. Not only as a man but as a police officer. So this is not the way I wanted to ascend to this position," said Lawrence Wright, interim chief of Gary Police.

Wright previously served as training commander for the department. He grew up in Gary.

"We're going to do things even better than we did before. We want them to be assured that they are safe in their homes, and we take their problems seriously, and we are doubly our level of commitment to make sure the job gets done," Wright said.

"Houston's outta there? Good thing," said Linda Johnson, Gary resident. "I think we got a lot of crooked cops in Gary and it starts at the top," said Paula Lucas Grafton, Gary resident.

If former Gary Police Chief Huston is convicted of all six counts he faces a maximum of 24 years imprisonment. Chief Wright says he has tried to contact the former chief but has been unable to reach him.