New job restrictions for Gary cops causes stir

A long-anticipated but hastily issued order has some Gary police officers and local bar owners wondering and worrying what it means.

Perhaps intended to halt security jobs at bars, the rule, as distributed, doesn’t allow officers to work at the Majestic Star Casino, Rail Cats games or functions at the Genesis Center where alcohol is served.

The order states that “outside employment is prohibited when. . .employees working for any establishment that serves alcohol.”

The police administration handed down the new order hours after Patrolman Brandon Gildon was grazed in the side – and not in his leg as originally reported – in a shootout outside Shaw’s Bar early Friday.

Police spokesman Sgt. Thomas Decanter said Monday the rule became effective immediately.

Decanter said the order was supposed to refer to businesses that “solely” serve alcohol. But the copy posted last week to all officers does not include that word. And more than one police officer noted that even the tiniest neighborhood bar sells some kind of snacks.

As word of the rule spread, some bar owners who occasionally hire Gary officers said they are not happy to lose the help.

Willie “Russell” Gregory, owner of Chop’s Lounge at 5th Avenue and Chase Street, noted that the salaries for Gary officers are very low, and they need the extra work. “I feel safer with a Gary police officer,” Gregory said. “I rarely have any problems here, but when I do, they can quell it quickly.”

“Now, I’ll just do the security myself,” he said.

Tonia Hayes, owner of the Zanzibar Lounge at 5th Avenue and Tompkins Street in Brunswick, took over the business when her uncle died in 2008. Like Gregory, Hayes said she has an older clientele and rarely experiences a problem, but when young people come in and see a police officer there, it sends a message that they must behave.

“My customers feel very comfortable here any time of the day or night,” Hayes said. For three months, the street light at her corner was broken, and she worried about people leaving in the dark, but with police as security, there were no issues, she said.

Fraternal Order of Police President Samuel Abegg said Tuesday that representatives from his association have met with the administration over proposed changes to department rules and he was surprised at the restrictive wording. “When we discussed the modifications, it was that places that serve alcohol but not primarily would be acceptable.”

Decanter noted that officers working any second jobs must complete a form and submit it to the police chief for approval. “He will decide on a case-by-case basis,” Decanter said.