Pity This US Police Force

In Gary, Indiana, the troubles are mounting
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 11, 2015 2:05 PM CDT
Why One Police Force Is Struggling Bigtime
On Sept. 10, 2014, police officers salute fallen Merrillville Patrolman Nickolaus Schultz as his body is removed from a hearse in Lowell, Indiana, about 30 miles south of Gary.   (AP Photo/The Times, John J. Watkins)

Times are tough for at least one American police force. With five recent resignations, the force in Gary, Indiana, has seen 20 cops quit this year. Now the city budgeted for 235 officers has fewer than 200, the Chicago Tribune reports. Seems it's about money: In the city of about 80,000 just 30 miles southeast of Chicago along Lake Michigan, first-class patrolmen earn just $39,304, making it Lake County's busiest but lowest-paid department. In nearby Merrillville, Indiana, entry-level officers are pulling in $48,000. Financial problems have left Gary unable to compete with raises offered to other public safety workers in recent years. "Anytime you're $10,000 less than a neighboring department and have arguably the greatest risk, you don't have to do the math," says Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson.

"We get that," she adds. "They need a sense that they're valued." Meanwhile, Gary police are investigating the death of a 17-year-old Chicago girl whose body turned up at her old high school in Gary, the Tribune reports. According to her aunt, Connita Richardson was picked up from her boyfriend's house by a cousin last Sunday, and went missing until her body was found at the school on Tuesday. "I don't think they have anything close (to a suspect) yet," says a Gary police sergeant. Adding to Gary's woes, "much-loved and highly respected" 15-year veteran Sgt. Donald Peter, 42, died at home of apparent natural causes Thursday, reports the Tribune. And last month, ex-Gary officer Burt Sanders called 911 from a Gary church about chest pains, but when medics arrived, the church door was locked, and they left; Sanders was later found dead in the sanctuary, officials tell the Tribune. (Read more police stories.)

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