Amid rift over Gary police reforms, Indiana State Police try to 'reset' relations

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Tuesday, September 13, 2022
Indiana State Police attempt 'reset' amid rift over Gary police reform
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Amid a rift over Gary police reforms, Indiana State Police held a press conference to "reset" relations between the state and some city officials.

GARY, Ind. (WLS) -- Controversy continues to simmer in Gary, Indiana over state help to reform the city's police department. Indiana State Police held a press conference to "reset" relations between the state and some city officials.

As part of his "Re-imagine Gary" initiative, the mayor of Indiana's 10th largest city has worked with the Indiana State Police to reform his police department - seen in some quarters as approaching dysfunctional.

"If we continue to do the same thing and expect different results, you fill in the rest of it," Gary Mayor Jerome Prince said. "That is definitely the definition of insanity and it is something that as the mayor of the city I will not engage in."

With Indiana governor Eric Holcomb's support, Indiana State Police have studied Gary policing since April and made recommendations to improve it.

Last week, 17 ordinances were proposed to the city council on a range of issues, especially police discipline. The council president, a possible mayoral challenger in this election year, denounced much of the effort in a public safety committee meeting last week.

"To come here as an outsider and tell elected officials who are representing the city and citizens of Gary, Indiana that they are just so overwhelmed by what they are seeing, and that we are engaging in semantics, is frankly disrespectful," said William Godwin, president of Gary Common Council.

Those comments lit a fire under Indiana State Police. The force pushed back on Monday, starting with a senior officer from Gary.

"This is not structurally and in no fashion was this meant to disparage the Gary Police Department or this community," Indiana State Police Major Jerry Williams said. "Just the opposite. Just to uplift it and hopefully add some resources."

The ISP said they hope to wrap up their efforts within 90 days of taking action on reform, and through their efforts, perhaps they can save Gary from a consent decree on police governance akin to what the federal justice department imposed on Chicago in 2017.

In the meantime, Gary is still looking for a new police chief.

"I want to continue to do my job and the reality is that these are sweeping changes and a whole lot, very quickly, you can't possibly expect us to just sit on our hands and act like we are robots," Godwin said.

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