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Indiana State Police major appointed interim Gary Police chief

Gary Interim Police Chief Jerry Williams takes questions during a press conference Jan. 6.
screenshot from Re-Imagine Gary Facebook video
Gary Interim Police Chief Jerry Williams takes questions during a press conference Jan. 6.

After a months-long, nationwide search, the Gary Police Department still doesn't have a permanent police chief. Mayor Jerome Prince says he's opted not to hire any of the three recommended finalists and instead appoint one of the leaders of the police department's restructuring process as interim chief.

"I asked the state police major Jerry Williams to become our next interim police chief, and I'm pleased to say that he has accepted and he has the support and encouragement of the superintendent of state police, as well as the governor's office," Prince announced during a press conference Friday.

Williams, a Gary native, has been one of the leaders of the state police review of the Gary Police Department's policies and procedures that began last April. He said his plan is to do a "hard reset" of the department.

"To create a clean slate with all of the staff within the Gary Police Department and literally give everybody an opportunity for professional advancement throughout the police department and become part of the police department's future and history," Williams added.

Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter said Williams volunteered to take a leave of absence from the state police to take the position. "This has never happened in the history of the Indiana State Police, so it's precedent-setting with what we're doing right now, but it was the right thing to do for this city," Carter said.

Mayor Prince added that while it would be nice to have the stability of a permanent police chief, he thinks that for now, Williams is the best person to continue the work already begun. "After considering where we were today and where we ultimately want to go, I think that it would be a disservice and certainly a disruption to the work that's been performed this far, if we changed course," Prince said.

Williams promised to look for opportunities to engage with the community and bridge gaps in communication, all while doing it with fewer officers than the department had in the past.

"I could not think of a better place to call home than the Gary Police Department," Williams said. "Some 32-plus years ago, however long ago it was, the first police job I was ever given an opportunity was actually here with the Gary Police Department, so I hold it very dearly and close to my heart. I don't take this for granted, and I certainly don't take this position and this posture that we're in right now for granted."

In a statement Friday, state senator and mayoral candidate Eddie Melton called Prince's failure to appoint a permanent chief "unacceptable" and said a lack of consistent leadership has contributed to police officers' low morale. But Melton said he wants Williams to be successful and offered to help in any way he can.

Michael Gallenberger is a news reporter and producer that hosts All Things Considered on 89.1 FM | Lakeshore Public Media.