Gary, Indiana’s police officers and firefighters will get a raise in 2016, said Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson Tuesday. This would be their first raise in nearly a decade. This follows reporting, including ours, that there was a mass exodus from the department for higher pay and a safer environment.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Freeman-Wilson is now speaking publicly about the planned raised. Prior to the announcement, she refused to make any commitments on the issue. However during a recent news conference, she announced a $70,000 donation from NIPSCO, a local utility company. NIPSCO believes that part of keeping crime down is raising salaries so there can be higher quality officers on the streets of Gary.
While Freeman-Wilson would not offer specifics about the pay raise, she said she would provide further information later in the week when there is more information available.
She did state that besides the NIPSCO donation, the money earmarked for the salary increase would come from cuts to other government agencies and programs. There was no further information about what programs would be cut and by what amount.
Common Council Vice President Ronald Brewer added about the program cuts that “everything is up for grabs and nothing will be spared.”
Brewer added that the process of reviewing proposals for the budget will begin in September by the Common Council.
Police Chief Larry McKinley liked the idea of attracting more qualified officers with higher salaries. He said he has witnessed great officers leaving their positions for law enforcement positions in other areas because the salaries were higher.
“It would give us an enhanced police presence,” McKinley said.
According to the Fraternal Order of Police Local, a first class patrolman that has two years of experience on the job is paid $39,304 per year. In comparison, state troopers in Indiana earn $43,000 per year and some Lake County municipalities pay police officers around $50,000 per year.
Freeman-Wilson said that while higher salaries are a start to reducing violent crime rates in Gary, it is only the beginning of the effort. 34 people have been killed so far in 2015 and five of those killings happened within the last week.
“If we had 500 officers in the Police Department, it would not prevent the occurrences we have been seeing,” the mayor said. “We are not able to have an officer on every street corner at all times.”
According to NWI Times, Gary police and firefighters have been rallying for a raise for some time, notably in 2014 when 60 city police officer and firefighters picketed outside of Gary City Hall.