Training of new Gary police officers delayed

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GARY, Ind. (AP) — A Fraternal Order of Police leader says the city of Gary is dragging its feet in hiring additional officers, raising concerns among the rank and file in the wake of the fatal shooting of a patrolman.

Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson has said putting more police on the streets is a priority, but officers don’t believe that’s the case, FOP Lodge 61 President Sam Abegg told the Post-Tribune for a story Sunday, three weeks after the fatal shooting of Patrolman Jeffrey Westerfield.

“When it comes to public safety, the mayor talks about priorities, but actions speak louder than words,” Abegg said.

Fourteen candidates are on a police hiring list but will not attend the Northwest Indiana Law Enforcement Academy when its next round of classes begin Aug. 4 because the hiring process isn’t complete. The next 18-week academy class begins in November.

The 14 new hires have not been sworn in, and won’t be in time to get them to the academy, because they have not been approved by the Indiana Public Retirement System, the Post-Tribune reported.

State officials “are aware of our need to hire more officers and continue to work with us to expedite the process,” city spokeswoman Chelsea Whittington said.

However, the Indiana Public Retirement System has not yet received “any recent baseline applications from the Gary City Police Department” because the local hiring process hasn’t finished, agency spokeswoman Jennifer Dunlap said.

Candidates who complete a civil service hiring process must receive medical and psychological examinations, and those results must then be approved in Indianapolis. Local examinations are beginning and could take weeks, and the retirement examiners typically need about 30 days, Dunlap said.

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