Gary officials mull residency push for public safety employees

Gary IN police patch

Officials connected to Gary’s public safety agencies will meet next week to try to figure out how to increase the number of Gary residents in police and firefighter positions.

Councilwoman LaVetta Sparks-Wade, D-6th, said she will be part of a working group that will meet at 4 p.m. Thursday at City Hall.

Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson proposed the meeting as a way of trying to put together an ordinance that the Common Council could consider to increase residency for municipal employees.

Sparks-Wade said the group will consist of the police and fire chiefs of Gary, along with the heads of the commissions that review job applicants for police and fire department jobs.

Also included will be the heads of the police and firefighters unions and Councilwoman Rebecca Wyatt, D-1st, who also has expressed an interest in the issue along with Sparks-Wade.

Sparks-Wade is the sponsor of a pair of ordinances pending before the Common Council that would give additional points on entrance examinations for prospective police officers and firefighters who can prove they live in Gary.

That ordinance is pending, and the Common Council on Tuesday formally voted 8-0 — with Councilwoman Carolyn Rogers, D-4th, absent — to defer action on the ordinance indefinitely.

Council officials previously suggested seeking a legal opinion from the Indiana attorney general’s office to determine if any Gary ordinance would violate the spirit of state law that prohibits residency requirements for public safety employees.

As of this week, no such action has been taken, although officials have not ruled out such action in the future.

Sparks-Wade said the issue of residency for Gary municipal employees remains a priority for her and one she will continue to pursue.

“I want the people of Gary to feel like their government works for them and that they are a part of it,” she said.

Gregory Tejeda is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.