WBEZ | Hammond http://www.wbez.org/tags/hammond Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Recent incidents cast doubt on Hammond police accountability, critics say http://www.wbez.org/news/recent-incidents-cast-doubt-hammond-police-accountability-critics-say-111228 <p><p>Activists will rally in Hammond, Indiana this weekend to highlight concerns about police brutality.</p><p>A controversial traffic stop there led to accusations of excessive force and has become part of a national debate over how to hold police accountable. Critics say that case and another recent incident shows that Hammond&#39;s system for policing the police is broken.</p><p>&ldquo;There needs to be a fair, transparent process in place for citizens to voice their concerns especially when they have a complaint against the police,&rdquo; says attorney Trent McCain, who is based in Merrillville, Indiana.</p><p>McCain is representing Norma Maldonado and her partner Dario Lemus in a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Hammond Police Department.</p><p>The family&rsquo;s 2 year old pit-bull dog Lily was shot last June by a responding police officer who was dispatched on reports that a dog was loose.</p><p>Police say the dog lunged at Officer Timothy Kreischer, which justified shooting the animal.</p><p>Maldonado disputes that claim.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/NWI%20Cops%203%20Lily%20the%20dog%20.jpg" style="float: left; height: 225px; width: 300px;" title="Lilly the dog" />&ldquo;Lily was running at me and I can see the blood all over her. That&rsquo;s when he started to lower his gun and I just started screaming &lsquo;why did you shoot my dog? Why did you shoot her?&rsquo; He was frozen for a while and just staring at us, like he didn&rsquo;t know what to say,&rdquo; Maldonado said. &ldquo;I was screaming why did you shoot her? He said because she was loose. I said &lsquo;no she wasn&rsquo;t.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Maldonado says her house was protected by an invisible fence system, which the city says is prohibited in Hammond because they can fail.</p><p>The dog survived after thousands of dollars in veterinary care.</p><p>Maldonado, however, remains upset because she says the officer fired his weapon just a few feet from her young son.</p><p>Maldonado says she showed up at the police department to file a formal complaint against the officer, but was told she couldn&rsquo;t.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t understand why I was denied that right to make the complaint against them. So, I just felt that all doors were closed for me,&rdquo; Maldonado said.</p><p>McCain says he&rsquo;s not sure why Maldonado was turned away from filing a complaint.</p><p>&ldquo;My clients attempted to file a citizen&rsquo;s complaint several times after their dog was shot within a few feet of their 7-year-old son,&rdquo; McCain said. &ldquo;They got the cold shoulder from the City of Hammond and received the runaround each time they tried to lodge a complaint.&rdquo;</p><p>Hammond police declined to comment on the Maldonado case.</p><p>Maldonado went on to file a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city for the pain inflicted on the family and the officer&rsquo;s alleged reckless action in shooting the dog.</p><p>McCain said all of this could&rsquo;ve been avoided with a proper system for filing complaints to an independent review board.</p><p>&ldquo;The police are there to protect and serve and if they are not performing their duties in the proper fashion and people are getting hurt, and their civil rights are being violated, then they need to have a voice or an opportunity to bring their complaints to the proper bodies,&rdquo; McCain said.</p><p>Hammond police spokesman Lt. Richard Hoyda said citizens can lodge complaints in person, on its website or through the city&rsquo;s Human Relations Commission.</p><p>A spokesman for the commission told WBEZ it recorded only two complaints this year against police and none last year.</p><p>The city wouldn&rsquo;t confirm that number, but it says all complaints are investigated.</p><p>Hammond city attorney Kristina Kantar stated in a letter to WBEZ that Indiana law does not require it to release information regarding citizen complaints unless it results in disciplinary action against an officer.</p><p>That means no Hammond police officers have been suspended, demoted or fired in the past two years.</p><p>That includes officers Charles Turner and Patrick Vicari, who are named in a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by a Hammond couple, Lisa Mahone and Jamal Jones,&nbsp;who were stopped in late September for not wearing their seatbelts.</p><p>The tense, 13 minute traffic stop was captured on a cell phone by Mahone&rsquo;s teenage son sitting in the back seat with his young sister. aAfter Jones repeatedly refused requests to exit the vehicle, the video shows police smashing passenger window, tasing Jones and arresting him.</p><p>Police said the officers feared that Jones might have a weapon.</p><p>The incident sparked a media frenzy, with many comparing Hammond to Ferguson, Missouri. In the weeks after the incident, Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. said the officers would face a disciplinary hearing.</p><p>&ldquo;The two officers (Vicari and Turner) are going to appear before the Board of Captains meeting. It is a disciplinary hearing, it doesn&rsquo;t mean discipline is sure to follow,&rdquo; McDermott told WBEZ in early November.</p><p>However, that disciplinary hearing never happened. And a few weeks later the officers were back on the street, despite the fact that the FBI still is investigating the incident.</p><p>Critics say this demonstrates the need for stronger oversight to deal with alleged police misconduct.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s no infrastructure in place in Northwest Indiana that really addresses that concern,&rdquo; said Dr. Gregory Jones, professor of Theology at Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Indiana.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/NWI%20Cops%201%20Dr_0.jpg" style="height: 185px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="Valparaiso University professor Dr. Gregory Jones" />Dr. Jones also heads the Northwest Indiana African American Alliance. The Alliance tracks possible racial profiling in areas like Valparaiso, Gary and Hammond.</p><p>&ldquo;Poor people of color are often intimidated off of dealing with that issue. If we look at the Hispanic/Latino community, we look at poor African-Americans and poor whites, we need some levels of accountability there,&rdquo; Jones said.</p><p>In Valparaiso, which has struggled with race relations over the years,&nbsp;Dr. Jones says he has a dedicated partner in addressing racial profiling in Mayor Jon Costas.</p><p>&ldquo;I think the Valparaiso Police Department is a great police department. I think we can give leadership to the region in terms of a process of accountability throughout the region in relationship to these kinds of concerns,&rdquo; Jones said.</p><p>Valparaiso Mayor Jon Costas admits his city may not face the same the same challenges as other Northwest Indiana in terms of population, crime, diversity and struggling economies.</p><p>&ldquo;Clearly, it&rsquo;s a much different policing environment in more urban cities and in cities the incidents of crime can be higher depending on where you&rsquo;re at,&rdquo; Costas said.</p><p>But regardless of a city&rsquo;s challenges, Costas&rsquo; message to police officers &mdash; especially rookies &mdash; is clear and constant.</p><p>&ldquo;You have a lot of authority and you have an advantage of force over others in a significant way,&rdquo; Costas said. &ldquo;You must carry that with humility and respect for the citizens.&rdquo;</p><p>Attorney Trent McCain says having a better system of accountability in place could save cities and towns money.</p><p>&ldquo;The number of lawsuits against Northwest Indiana cities and towns like Hammond can be reduced if a fair, transparent process existed where citizens can voice their complaints against police,&rdquo; McCain said.</p><p>Maldonado says after her complaint about the dog shooting was dismissed she no longer felt comfortable living in Hammond and moved back to her native Cicero, Illinois.</p><p>&ldquo;I loved it in Hammond. I really did,&rdquo; Maldonado said.</p><p>Maldonado said she was left to explain to her children that police are there to protect them, not bring harm.</p><p>&ldquo;Not all cops are bad. There are a bunch of bad apples out there but not all of them are bad and it&rsquo;s sad that to this day we never had an apology from them, and that&rsquo;s all I really asked for in the beginning and they never gave us that,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. declined to comment for this story.</p><p>Sunday&rsquo;s rally to address concerns about police brutality will be held outside McDermott&rsquo;s city hall office.</p></p> Fri, 12 Dec 2014 12:31:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/recent-incidents-cast-doubt-hammond-police-accountability-critics-say-111228 Disbelief by some in Hammond after accused cops are reinstated http://www.wbez.org/news/disbelief-some-hammond-after-accused-cops-are-reinstated-111159 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/hammond_1.png" alt="" /><p><p><em>Updated 11/25/2014 at 4 p.m.</em></p><p>Two Hammond, Indiana police officers involved in a controversial traffic stop that invited comparisons to Ferguson, Missouri are back on patrol after the mayor asserted they were cleared of any wrongdoing by the FBI.</p><p>But now&nbsp;the FBI agent in charge of the investigation, Bob Ramsey, denies that, saying the case is ongoing and the officers have yet to be cleared.</p><div>&quot;At this point, no,&quot; Ramsey said. &quot;The Hammond police department has been very open with us, very cooperative, very forthcoming through this entire process. They have provided us information pertaining to the events that happened on the day of question. However, we are still in the process of gathering additional information and a review is not complete at this point.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Asked to respond, Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott Jr. is sticking to his guns.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>He says he received a letter on Sunday from another FBI agent that the officers were cleared and it was appropriate to put them back on patrol.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Officers Patrick Vicari and Charles Turner, who are white, were caught on video smashing a window and tasing an unarmed black passenger during an incident that stirred outrage at both the local and national level.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The news of their reinstatement came just hours before a Grand Jury decided not to indict the police officer at the center of events in Ferguson.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&ldquo;Now that we received the results back from the FBI, I made the decision, we made the decision to place both of these officers back on duty,&rdquo; McDermott. said Monday afternoon. &ldquo;They will be back on duty immediately.&rdquo;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Lavance Turner, a student at Purdue University Calumet in Hammond, was perplexed by the decision.</div><p>&ldquo;I really do believe that was a complete violation of any and everything regarding [the passenger&rsquo;s] personal well being and how they went about it,&rdquo; Turner said.</p><p>He and fellow student Michael Carson reacted to the news while watching the Ferguson Grand Jury announcement on TV in the student center on campus.</p><p>&ldquo;You see that! They&rsquo;re about to riot. No indictment?&rdquo; said the 22-year-old Carson moments after the decision was read by the prosecutor in St. Louis County, Missouri.</p><p>The two students were equally baffled that criminal charges weren&rsquo;t filed against the two Hammond police officers who had been on desk duty the past few weeks.</p><p>The case stemmed from an incident on Sept. 24 when Lisa Mahone, a black motorist was pulled over for not wearing her seatbelt.</p><p>Officers Vicari and Turner stopped Mahone, 27, on 169th Street near Cline Avenue in the city&rsquo;s Hessville neighborhood.</p><p>The officers&rsquo; attention quickly turned to a front seat passenger in the car, 42-year-old Jamal Jones. They ordered him to produce identification and get out of the car. After Jones spent several tense minutes trying to explain he had no I.D. and refusing to exit the vehicle, officers smashed the passenger window, used a taser and arrested Jones.</p><p>Much of the incident was recorded on a cell phone by Mahone&rsquo;s 14-year-old son in the backseat. A young girl also sitting in the rear of the vehicle is heard crying in the video.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="465" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/XsW-QCxXkQA?showinfo=0" width="620"></iframe></p><p>The video went viral and Purdue Cal student Lavance Turner says he watched it dozens of times on social media.</p><p>&ldquo;You can&rsquo;t really resist physically if you&rsquo;re in your own car. So, I don&rsquo;t understand if the officer felt threatened. It was really strange,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>A Hammond police spokesman said the officers feared for their safety when one officer said he saw Jones drop his hands behind the center console of the vehicle.</p><p>Mayor McDermott was steadfast in his defense of Officers Turner and Vicari.</p><p>&ldquo;If we condone this type of behavior and make it so that every time a person who is pulled over for a seat belt violation or anything else that it can drag on for 15 or 20 minutes for something as simple as someone handing over an ID,&rdquo; McDermott said.&nbsp; &ldquo;If that&rsquo;s the America that we&rsquo;re heading towards, that&rsquo;s not going to be an ideal place to live.&rdquo;</p><p>Lisa Mahone and Jamal Jones filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the Hammond Police Department.</p><p>Their attorney, Dana Kurtz, says McDermott is part of the problem.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s not just officers engaging in excessive force, it&rsquo;s police departments and, especially in this case, the mayor of the city of Hammond, condoning what these officers did,&rdquo; Kurtz said. &ldquo;That just encourages this kind of conduct to continue.&rdquo;</p><p>McDermott has long rejected the comparisons to Ferguson by pundits. But he says the incident has impressed upon him that he needs to work closer with the city&rsquo;s African-American population.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think there are any winners or losers in this. I can tell you the Mayor of Hammond has heard the frustrations loud and clear,&rdquo; McDermott said.</p><p>The Hammond chapter of the NAACP is pushing the city to hire more African American police officers. Currently, the Hammond Police Department has 9 black officers out of a force of 151.</p><p>Blacks account for 20 percent of Hammond&rsquo;s 80,000 residents.</p><p>&ldquo;The (African-American) numbers in the Hammond Police Department are too low and I&rsquo;m going to fix that,&rdquo; McDermott said.</p><p>Rev. Homer Cobb, head of Hammond&rsquo;s NAACP, said he always had his doubts about whether the FBI actually cleared the officers, and he still thinks the controversial traffic stop could&rsquo;ve been better handled.</p><p>But Cobb adds he appreciates the dialogue that&rsquo;s been established with the mayor and police department since then.</p><p>&ldquo;I wouldn&rsquo;t consider Hammond to be as volatile as Ferguson but there&rsquo;s every bit of a concern all across the nation because we&rsquo;re dealing with profiling and events happening without accountability,&rdquo; Cobb said. &ldquo;What we want is a better Hammond.</p><p><em>Correction: A previous version of this story mistakenly stated that the FBI had cleared the two police officers of any wrongdoing. That was according to Hammond mayor Tom McDermott, Jr. The story has now been updated with direct comment from the FBI.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 25 Nov 2014 12:44:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/disbelief-some-hammond-after-accused-cops-are-reinstated-111159 Indiana suspect hints at more killings http://www.wbez.org/news/indiana-suspect-hints-more-killings-110968 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP185930239534.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Investigators in two states were reviewing unsolved murders and missing person reports after the arrest of an Indiana man who confessed to strangling one woman, told police where to find six more bodies and hinted at a serial killing spree over two decades.</p><p>But determining whether others have fallen prey to Darren Vann, 43, a former Marine convicted of sexual assault in Texas in 2009, could take years, a former high-ranking agent at the FBI&#39;s Chicago office said. That some of his alleged victims may have been prostitutes or had fallen through society&#39;s cracks could also complicate the investigation.</p><p>&quot;It does make it difficult. It indicates he preyed on individuals that might be less likely to be reported missing,&quot; said Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson.</p><p>Vann was charged Monday in the strangulation death of 19-year-old Afrikka Hardy, whose body was found Friday in a bathtub at a Motel 6 in Hammond, 20 miles southeast of Chicago. He also was charged with murder in commission of a robbery and robbery causing great bodily injury. He is scheduled to make his first court appearance on Wednesday.</p><p>A probable cause affidavit said police identified Vann from surveillance video outside the motel.</p><p>Hammond Police Chief John Doughty said Vann confessed to Hardy&#39;s slaying and directed police to six bodies in abandoned homes in nearby Gary. Charges in those cases are expected this week.</p><p>Police in Gary and Austin, Texas, said they are reviewing missing person reports and unsolved cases to determine whether any might be connected to Vann after he indicated during interviews that he had killed before.</p><p>Former FBI agent Joseph Ways Sr., now executive director of the Chicago Crime Commission, a non-governmental watchdog group, told The Associated Press that such investigations can stretch into years. Investigators will trace Vann&#39;s footsteps, down to examining gas receipts and toll both records, to learn where he traveled.</p><p>Ways said teenagers or adults who maintain close contact with their families are typically reported missing quickly, but that&#39;s not always the case for those engaged in prostitution, he said.</p><p>&quot;If one of them goes missing for days or weeks, it might be that nobody notices,&quot; he said. &quot;It&#39;s a shame.&quot;</p><p>Doughty said Hardy was involved in prostitution and had arranged to meet Vann at the motel through a Chicago-area website. Police were called by someone who attempted to reach Hardy but received text message responses that made no sense and that she believed came from the suspect.</p><p>The backgrounds of the other victims weren&#39;t immediately revealed.</p><p>Police took Vann into custody Saturday afternoon, and during interviews the suspect confessed to Hardy&#39;s killing, told investigators where the Gary bodies could be found and hinted at other victims since the 1990s, Doughty said.</p><p>&quot;It could go back as far as 20 years based on some statements we have, but that has yet to be corroborated,&quot; Doughty said. The Gary slayings appeared to have happened recently, he said.</p><p>The body of one victim, 35-year-old Anith Jones of Merrillville, Indiana, was found Saturday night in an abandoned home. She had been missing since Oct. 8.</p><p>Five more bodies were found Sunday in other homes. Doughty identified two of the women as Gary residents Teaira Batey, 28, and Christine Williams, 36. Autopsies are scheduled to be completed Tuesday on three of the women who have not yet been identified, the Lake County coroner&#39;s office said.</p><p>Austin police on Monday said they would review potential related cases based on information provided by Indiana police.</p><p>Vann is registered as a sex offender in Texas, where the Department of Public Safety listed his risk of attacking someone again as &quot;low.&quot;</p><p>Court records in Travis County, Texas, show Vann served a five-year prison sentence, with credit for the 15 months he was in jail awaiting trial, after pleading guilty in 2009 to sexually assaulting a woman at an Austin apartment two years earlier.</p><p>The woman told police that she went to Vann&#39;s apartment, where he asked if she was a police officer. After she told him no, he knocked her down, strangled her, hit her several times in the face and told her he could kill her. He then raped her.</p><p>Vann allowed the woman to leave and she called police the next day.</p><p>The circumstances of that case had similarities to Hardy&#39;s death, according to the victim&#39;s mother and court records.</p><p>Lori Townsend said police told her that Vann asked her daughter to perform a certain sex act, and &quot;when she said &#39;no&#39; and put up a fight, he snapped and strangled her.&quot;</p><p>Vann told police Hardy began to fight during sex and that he strangled her with his hands and an extension cord, the probable cause affidavit says.</p><p>&quot;This man is sick,&quot; Townsend said from her home in Colorado.</p></p> Mon, 20 Oct 2014 16:09:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/indiana-suspect-hints-more-killings-110968 Hammond mayor rejects comparisons to Ferguson http://www.wbez.org/news/hammond-mayor-rejects-comparisons-ferguson-110916 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/hammond.png" alt="" /><p><p>The breakfast was the same, but the conversation among regulars at Frankie&rsquo;s Restaurant in Hammond, Ind. yesterday morning was a little livelier than usual.</p><p>Many, like Michael Bullock and John Gunn, were buzzing&nbsp;about a <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XsW-QCxXkQA">video that has gone viral on YouTube</a> and attracted national media attention.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="465" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/XsW-QCxXkQA?rel=0" width="620"></iframe></p><p>&ldquo;He just mentioned the video,&rdquo; the 52-year-old Bullock said as I joined them at their table.</p><p>The video, recorded from the back seat by the driver&#39;s 14-year-old son, captured a Sept. 24 confrontation between the police and two adults in the car. It&rsquo;s now the basis of a lawsuit filed this week in U.S. District Court against several officers and the city of Hammond.</p><p>After police pulled over the driver, Lisa Mahone, for a minor seatbelt violation officers demanded that passenger Jamal Jones produce identification &mdash; something the lawsuit says Jones did not have with him.</p><p>After several tense minutes, the video shows an officer smashing the front passenger-side window with a club, showering shards of glass on the vehicle&#39;s four occupants, including Mahone&#39;s son and daughter in the back seat. An officer then stuns Jones with a taser before dragging him out and arresting him.</p><p>The incident happened on 169th Street and Cline Avenue, very close to Frankie&rsquo;s Restaurant.</p><p>From what he&rsquo;s seen of the video, John Gunn believes the officers overstepped their bounds.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t see the justification for knocking the window out,&rdquo; Gunn, 62, said. And they got a kid in the back seat. Now, how does that affect the kids?&rdquo;</p><p>Hammond&nbsp;police&nbsp;spokesman Lt. Richard Hoyda issued an earlier statement saying Jones had refused to comply with orders to get out of the car and that officers were concerned for their safety after seeing him &quot;repeatedly reach towards the rear seats of the vehicle.&quot;</p><p>Neither Gunn nor Bullock say they&rsquo;ve had a bad experience with Hammond police. But Bullock says he makes sure to cooperate when he&rsquo;s pulled over. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;When they get my license and they see that I&rsquo;m 6&rsquo;6&rdquo; and weigh over 300 pounds that in itself creates an issue,&rdquo; Bullock said. &ldquo;I see it in their eyes that it becomes an issue so I&rsquo;ve personally stepped back from not presenting any drama.&rdquo;</p><p>Still, Bullock says he&rsquo;s not surprised that a racially-charged police incident occurred in Northwest Indiana.</p><p>&ldquo;This is one of the most segregated areas in the country. You&rsquo;ve got whites in their area, blacks in their area, Latinos in their area and there&rsquo;s no really intermingling,&rdquo; Bullock said.</p><p>But Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott, Jr. doesn&rsquo;t see his city the same way Bullock does. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Hammond&rsquo;s a very diverse city. The people that live in Hammond know that it&rsquo;s a diverse city and they&rsquo;re comfortable with it,&rdquo; McDermott told WBEZ on Wednesday afternoon at his City Hall office.</p><p>Since the incident came to light, McDermott&rsquo;s been fending off comparisons by the national media and others to what happened in Ferguson, Missouri two months ago.</p><p>&ldquo;They want this to be another Ferguson but it&rsquo;s not, and it&rsquo;s not going to be,&rdquo; McDermott, who is also an attorney, said.</p><p>McDermott says the city&rsquo;s 211 member police department reflects the 80-thousand residents, where nearly half are white, 30 percent Latino and a quarter black.</p><p>&ldquo;Around 25 percent of our officers are either Hispanic or African-American. It&rsquo;s important for the police department to reflect the community,&rdquo; McDermott said.</p><p>The Mayor defends the actions of his officers, saying the cell phone video shot by the 14 year old son of Lisa Mahone doesn&rsquo;t tell the whole story.</p><p>&ldquo;The video that they&rsquo;ve seen is 3 minutes long, and it&rsquo;s minutes 11, 12 and 13 of a 13 minute traffic stop,&rdquo; McDermott said. &ldquo;A lot of stuff happened that led up to this video.&rdquo;</p><p>Apparently a longer video was recorded from the officers&rsquo; squad car, but the city has yet to release it.</p><p>McDermott says that video shows officers repeatedly asking Jones to exit the vehicle, but he refuses and fails to show identification.</p><p>&ldquo;999 times out of 1,000, the person is going to show identification. This didn&rsquo;t happen in this case and things escalated more than I wish it would have,&rdquo; McDermott said.</p><p>But some Hammond residents sympathize with the officers. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;When a police officer stops you and asks you for something, I just believe that you should comply. Don&rsquo;t be suspicious, don&rsquo;t provoke any other actions,&rdquo; said longtime Hammond resident Nilda Rivera.</p><p>Rivera, 46, says she&rsquo;s always felt safe and has never had issues with police. As for the video that&rsquo;s captured the nation&rsquo;s attention, she wants to know why it exists at all.</p><p>&ldquo;That kind of makes you wonder what is this child is being told about the police? Are they being forced to think the worse thing is going to happen and in that respect is that why they were video taping,&rdquo; Rivera said.</p><p>But in the wake of other high-profile racially charged incidents, is it possible the cops may have also assumed the worst about the passengers in the car?</p><p>Michael McCafferty is a one-time Chicago police officer who now teaches law and criminal justice at Calumet College of St. Joseph in Hammond. He also is chair of the college&rsquo;s Public Safety Institute.</p><p>&ldquo;Police are very sensitive to what&rsquo;s occurring. I think officers are more likely to try to avoid these incidents right now,&rdquo; McCafferty said. &ldquo;These videos can go viral. You can go to work in the morning as a patrol officer and then being sued or facing charges or losing your job that afternoon.&rdquo;</p><p>According to the lawsuit, Jones had surrendered his driver&#39;s license after being stopped for not paying his insurance and instead tried to show the officers a ticket with his information on it. The lawsuit says the officers rejected the ticket, but police said Jones had refused to hand it over.</p><p>The complaint alleges officers shocked Jones a second time after removing him from the car, and accuses them of excessive force, false arrest, assault and battery and other charges. It seeks unspecified damages.</p><p>The lawsuit mentions that two of the officers had been sued in the past for excessive force or unlawful arrest. Court records indicate an undisclosed settlement in one of the cases.</p><p>As of now, Patrick Vicari and Charles Turner, the two Hammond officers named in the lawsuit remain on active duty.</p><p><em>Michael Puente is WBEZ&rsquo;s Northwest Indiana Reporter. Follow him on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/mikepuentenews">@MikePuenteNews</a> and on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/pages/WBEZ-Northwest-Indiana-Bureau/701257506570573">WBEZ&rsquo;s NWI Bureau Facebook page</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 09 Oct 2014 07:53:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/hammond-mayor-rejects-comparisons-ferguson-110916 After deaths, state rep says Indiana is neglecting child protection agency http://www.wbez.org/news/after-deaths-state-rep-says-indiana-neglecting-child-protection-agency-110235 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Indiana%20DCS%202%20%282%29.jpg" style="height: 207px; width: 310px; float: left;" title="Indiana Department of Child Services Director Mary Beth Bonaventura. (WBEZ/Michael Puente)" />Months after three young children died in a Hammond, Indiana house fire, a veteran Indiana lawmaker says the state has deprived the Department of Children Services of much-needed funds in order to &lsquo;pad&rsquo; its budget surplus.</p><p>The charges raise fresh questions about the ability of the agency to carry out its mission of protecting children from abuse and neglect.</p><p><a href="http://www.wbez.org/nearly-four-months-after-deadly-hammond-fire-several-questions-remain-110074" target="_blank">In the Hammond case</a>, six-month old Jayden, 4-year-old Dasani Young, 4, and Alexia Young, 3 all perished. Two other children managed to escape the fire, with their father Andre Young credited for saving their life.<br /><br />Several parties, from a juvenile judge to the city of Hammond to the birth parents themselves, have been criticized for not preventing the deaths. But many wonder how <a href="http://www.in.gov/dcs/index.htm" target="_blank">DCS</a> allowed the children, who were living in foster care just months prior to the fire, to return to a home with no running water, heat nor electricity.</p><p>&ldquo;Maybe the whole system, the laws failed these people,&rdquo; says DCS Director Mary Beth Bonaventura. &ldquo;Could we have done things better? Probably. Again, I don&rsquo;t know the case intimately. I wasn&rsquo;t the judge. I didn&rsquo;t hear the evidence.<br /><br />Bonaventura was appointed head of Indiana DCS in March 2013 following the ouster of the previous director over an ethics scandal.<br /><br />&ldquo;I think without question this is the most important job in the state,&rdquo; Bonaventura told WBEZ in an exclusive interview last month.&nbsp;<br /><br />Long before Bonaventura took that job, DCS was already facing scrutiny for its handling of several child abuse and neglect cases.</p><p>It still hasn&rsquo;t been officially determined if the three children in the Hammond house fire died because of neglect. But, in the wake of that incident and others, some see a pattern of neglect from those who oversee DCS down in Indianapolis. They say the agency, with 34-hundred employees scattered throughout 92 counties, doesn&rsquo;t get enough money or resources to properly do its job. And they point to other cases where kids may have fallen through the cracks as a result.<br /><br />Like the <a href="http://www.nwitimes.com/news/local/lake/gary/christian-choate-wrote-letters-detailing-abuse-mistreatment-before-his-death/article_b1fdc580-8a7d-50f4-b9a7-0503202d0f9f.html" target="_blank">notorious case of Christian Choate,</a> a 13 year old Gary boy whose body was found buried under a concrete slab in a trailer park in 2011, two years after he was first reported missing.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Indiana%20DCS%202%20%281%29%20.jpg" style="height: 438px; width: 310px; float: right;" title="Many see the case of 13-year-old Christian Choate of Gary as perhaps the worst example of Indiana Department of Child Services failing to meet its job in recent years. Advocates say more funding is needed for Indiana DCS to prevent more children from falling through the cracks. (Flickr/Monte Mendoza)" />Bonaventura is very familiar with the case.<br /><br />&ldquo;Christian Choate was my case when I was judge. And, so I know a lot about that case intimately. That&rsquo;s probably any judge&rsquo;s or director&rsquo;s or anybody&rsquo;s worst nightmare what happened to Christian Choate,&rdquo; Bonaventura said.&nbsp; &ldquo;A lot of people failed Christian.&rdquo;<br /><br />Before she was appointed to run DCS, Mary Beth Bonaventura served three decades as a juvenile judge in Lake County, Indiana, much of that time as the senior judge. She also became known for regularly appearing on reality television shows like &ldquo;Lake County Lockup&rdquo; and &ldquo;MTV: Juvies.&rdquo;<br /><br />But far from the cameras, Bonaventura still agonizes over the death of Christian Choate, An investigation found that he was routinely beaten, starved and locked up in a dog cage, and that as many as 13 people knew the boy was being abused.</p><p>Bonaventura holds Christian Choate&rsquo;s father and stepmother responsible, and both are now serving time in prison. She also blames the parents of the three Hammond kids for allowing them to live in a house with no utilities.<br /><br />Still, Bonaventura wonders if the agency she now helms, which handles 13,000 cases at any one time, could have done more.<br /><br />&ldquo;Can we ever prevent that from happening? We don&rsquo;t know on a daily basis what people are doing in their own homes,&rdquo; Bonaventura said. &ldquo;But once we get involved with a family, we darn better should know what&rsquo;s going on in that home and prevent any further injury to any children.&rdquo;<br /><br />For DCS to &lsquo;know what&rsquo;s going on in a home&rsquo; it requires money to hire, train and keep experienced case workers &ndash; who make up nearly half of Indiana DCS&rsquo;s 3,400 employees.<br /><br />The average pay of a DCS family case manager is $35,000 a year &ndash;&nbsp;this from a state with a $2 billion surplus.</p><p>&ldquo;It doesn&rsquo;t do us any good to have a surplus that&rsquo;s built on the backs of Hoosiers, on the backs of the less fortunate. And these kids have nobody to speak for them but the state,&rdquo; said Indiana State Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon, a Democrat from Munster in Northwest Indiana.</p><p>The veteran Democratic lawmaker takes issue with DCS budget cuts under recent Republican administrations. But more than that, she says DCS has also been giving money back under a process called reversion.<br /><br />$62 million in 2011 alone according to state records, nearly 14 percent of that year&rsquo;s DCS budget.<br /><br />In fact, in the last five years, the child protection agency has returned more than $118 million to state coffers.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen" allowtransparency="true" frameborder="0" height="340" mozallowfullscreen="mozallowfullscreen" msallowfullscreen="msallowfullscreen" oallowfullscreen="oallowfullscreen" src="http://cf.datawrapper.de/xsgYF/1/" webkitallowfullscreen="webkitallowfullscreen" width="620"></iframe>Reardon says imagine all the DCS caseworkers you could hire with that money.<br /><br />&ldquo;The padding of the surplus that&rsquo;s been touted nationwide, Indiana&rsquo;s surplus,&rdquo; Reardon said.&nbsp; &ldquo;If we actually paid people more and had more employees to handle the workload, you might not have the turnover that you see.&rdquo;<br /><br />Two years ago, the turnover rate among DCS caseworkers was as high as 50 percent in some parts of the state. It can be a traumatic job, and state law stipulates that caseworkers are supposed to have no more than 12 active cases while monitoring 17 children.<br /><br /><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Indiana%20DCS%202%20%283%29%20.jpg" style="height: 225px; width: 310px; float: left;" title="Indiana State Rep. Mara Candelaria Reardon [D-Munster] says Indiana’s DCS has returned millions of dollars back to the state in order to “pad” the state surplus. (Photo provided by the Statehouse File of Indiana)" />According to DCS&rsquo;s own report from last year, only 3 of its 19 regions were in compliance with the state-mandated caseload law.&nbsp; And more cases are coming in since Indiana recently centralized its child abuse hotline.<br /><br />Last year, case workers handled more than 150,000 calls of potential abuse.<br /><br />&ldquo;That doesn&rsquo;t even include the children that we haven&rsquo;t had contact with because a judgment call was made at the call center. These are actual real life children that need care and are in danger, and are not getting the services that they need,&rdquo; Reardon said.</p><p><br />After all the grim news, DCS may be starting to turn things around. This year the state is allocating $13 million in additional money to hire more case workers, boost salaries and enhance its child abuse hotline.</p><p>Last week, a DCS oversight committee, the Commission to Improve the Status of Children in Indiana, reported employee turnover has fallen below 16 percent on average.</p><p>But, even with the changes, DCS will not comply with the 12/17 standard unless additional measures are taken. In order to further ensure that caseloads are in compliance with the 12/17 standard, DCS will need to create 110 new Family Case Manager positions, according to Indiana&rsquo;s DCS 2013 annual report.<br /><br />Alfreda Singleton-Smith is DCS&rsquo; ombudsman, an independent state watchdog for the agency.<br /><br />&ldquo;The issue of fatality reviews and near fatality reviews is the one that started to be of concern simply because of the length of time it was taking to get those completed,&rdquo; Singleton-Smith told WBEZ.<br /><br />Singleton-Smith recently issued a <a href="http://www.in.gov/idoa/files/2013_DCS_Ombudsman_Bureau_Annual_Report_final.pdf" target="_blank">report</a> that found it was taking up to two years in some cases to investigate the deaths or near deaths of children. In that same report, Singleton-Smith said the delay was about more than DCS.<br /><br />&ldquo;In some cases, DCS has to wait to before they can complete their fatality review. The coroner, the prosecutor&rsquo;s office, law enforcement, the hospital, those outside individuals who have their own processes that they have to go through,&rdquo; Singleton-Smith said.<br /><br />Still, DCS head Mary Beth Bonaventura says her agency can &ndash; and must &ndash; do better.<br /><br />&ldquo;Two years is not acceptable. I just think there is so much to do at this agency and maybe at some point, not enough people to do it.&rdquo;</p></p> Tue, 27 May 2014 11:50:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/after-deaths-state-rep-says-indiana-neglecting-child-protection-agency-110235 Snow, severe cold shuts down Northwest Indiana http://www.wbez.org/news/snow-severe-cold-shuts-down-northwest-indiana-109472 <p><p>Northwest Indiana road conditions are improving but the area is far from normal and may be days away from recovering from an arctic blast of super cold temperatures.</p><p>Motorists and truckers had to deal with closed roads and highways for much of Monday, and after briefly reopening, by 5 p.m., INDOT had once again closed I-65 due to hazardous road conditions; I 80/94 remains open.</p><p>Earlier in the day trucker Tom Kenman of Joliet, IL passed the time in the cab of his semi truck listening to music and reading. Kenman works for a contractor that delivers mail for the U.S. Postal Service. He&rsquo;s ready to return home after being stuck at a Speedway gas station near Interstate 65 and 61st Avenue in Merrillville. As of this morning, it didn&rsquo;t look good for Kenman.</p><p>&ldquo;Things were kind of hazardous. About 6 p.m. (Sunday), things were hazardous so I jumped off on Route (U.S.) 30. I do maybe 20, 25 mph. That&rsquo;s it. Even before they shut it down, I decided forget it. I-65 is a mess. I don&rsquo;t know what I&rsquo;m going to do.</p><p>With most restaurants and businesses closed, even a nearby McDonald&rsquo;s, Kenman waited it out slurping Speedway&rsquo;s coffee and munching doughnuts.&nbsp;</p><p>I-65 was closed to all traffic yesterday afternoon because of heavy snow and slippery conditions. Semi trucks were lined up along U.S. 30 in Merrillville, waiting for I-65 to reopen, along with nearby Interstate 80/94.</p><p>Kenman and other truckers finally got some good news in the afternoon, when the Indiana Department of Transportation reopened I-65 around 2 p.m.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Drivers are advised to use extreme caution, take it slow, and travel at their own risk. Like the majority of roads across Northwest Indiana, and the state, conditions are extremely hazardous and non-emergency travel is strongly discouraged,&rdquo; said INDOT spokesman Matt Deitchley.</p><p>But the respite on I-65 was short-lived as officials would shut it down again only a few hours later.</p><p>Earlier in the day, Deitchley told WBEZ that some drivers had been driving around protective barriers to keep them off of I-94.</p><p>&ldquo;Those roads are shut down, but people are still driving around the barricades anyway. INDOT and Indiana State Police don&rsquo;t have the manpower right now to physically stop these drivers, but the roads are closed,&rdquo; Deitchley said. &ldquo;They are taking their lives in their own hands, and jeopardizing the emergency personnel who may have to rescue them.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/NWI%20Snow%202.jpg" style="height: 263px; width: 350px; float: right;" title="Trucks are lined up near a Speedway gas station. This is not a truck stop but truckers had no where to go Monday because nearby I-65 was closed. (WBEZ/Michael Puente)" />Drivers should expect to continue to encounter slick conditions and blowing and drifting snow both on the main line interstates and ramps.</p><p>In fact, many motorists in Gary were struggling to drive along Broadway, the city&rsquo;s main drag, with cars getting stuck in snowdrifts.</p><p>Local officials had declared a state of emergency for Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties during Sunday&rsquo;s heavy snow storm.</p><p>Indiana Gov. Mike Pence ordered the Indiana National Guard to help stuck motorists along the highway.</p><p>Much of the state is dealing with heavy snow and severe temperatures but Pence acknowledged at a news conference today in Indianapolis that Northwest Indiana may have been hit the hardest.</p><div class="image-insert-image ">That&rsquo;s why the Republican governor was sending more resources to &ldquo;da Region,&rdquo; often divided from the rest of the state because of political and cultural differences.</div><p>&ldquo;That (Northwest Indiana) is an area of the state, particularly with lake-effect snow, that is no stranger to severe weather events,&rdquo; Pence said, &ldquo;but we&rsquo;re moving resources into the region to recognize that the combination of heavy snow and brutally cold temperatures and wind gusts represents a real public safety hazard.&rdquo;</p><p>Early Monday, even with warnings by police to stay off the roads, some had no choice but to head to work.</p><p>Hammond resident Gus Lopez said driving to his job at ArcelorMittal Steel in neighboring East Chicago felt odd.</p><p>&ldquo;It was really desolate out. Hardly anyone out driving,&rdquo; Lopez told WBEZ. &ldquo;It reminded me of my time in North Dakota, where this type of weather and this type of conditions is not unusual at all for folks up there, that far north.</p><p>And this winter at least, &quot;da Region&quot; is starting to feel more like North Dakota than Northwestern Indiana.</p><p>Most schools in Northwest Indiana will be closed Tuesday but government offices are expected to reopen.</p><p>The Indiana General Assembly is also expected to open its session down in Indianapolis, a day later than originally scheduled.</p><p><em>Follow WBEZ NWI Reporter Michael Puente on Twitter <a href="http://twitter.com/MikePuenteNews" target="_blank">@MikePuenteNews</a>. </em></p></p> Mon, 06 Jan 2014 19:10:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/snow-severe-cold-shuts-down-northwest-indiana-109472 Hammond hardware store mixes art, food and music to help revitalize a struggling downtown http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/hammond-hardware-store-mixes-art-food-and-music-help-revitalize-struggling-downtown <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Screen Shot 2014-01-02 at 4.29.52 PM.png" alt="" /><p><p>Hammond, Indiana, is just a short drive from downtown Chicago. The city&rsquo;s had its ups and downs. But it&rsquo;s slowly building a reputation for arts and entertainment. And helping to fuel that is a place that mixes art, music, food and hardware the Paul Henry&rsquo;s Art Gallery.&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 02 Jan 2014 16:26:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/hammond-hardware-store-mixes-art-food-and-music-help-revitalize-struggling-downtown Closure after double murder comes for community, not son http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/closure-after-double-murder-comes-community-not-son-107366 <p><p>A brutal murder in a Cook County forest preserve gained widespread attention a few years ago.</p><p>The victims, an elderly couple from Hammond, Ind., were known for their strong community spirit.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/StoryCorps Theodore headshot-V.jpg" style="float: right;" title="Theodore McClendon. (Photo courtesy of StoryCorps)" />Their son, Theodore McClendon, came to the StoryCorps booth in Chicago to remember them.</div><p><strong>Theodore: </strong>We grew up in the era of civil rights. There was a consciousness among people that America was in turmoil, but it&rsquo;s growing into something. And my parents wanted us to grow into what America could become.</p><p>He described his parents, Milton Wayman McClendon, and Ruby Dean McClendon, as &ldquo;upstanding&rdquo; people.</p><p><strong>Theodore: </strong>My dad would fix kids&#39; bikes. He would coach Little League, he counseled troubled kids. My mother was a den mother for Cub Scouts, and they cared about the community.&nbsp;</p><p>Then one night, two teenagers came knocking at the door, saying they were in trouble.</p><p>To find out what happened, listen to the audio above.</p><p><em>Katie Mingle is a producer for WBEZ and the Third Coast Festival. </em></p></p> Fri, 24 May 2013 19:19:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/closure-after-double-murder-comes-community-not-son-107366 Ex-gang leader gets 87-year racketeering sentence http://www.wbez.org/news/ex-gang-leader-gets-87-year-racketeering-sentence-105497 <p><p>HAMMOND, Ind. &mdash; The former leader of a northwestern Indiana gang has been sentenced to 87 years in prison after pleading guilty to racketeering and drug charges.</p><p>U.S. District Judge Philip Simon in Hammond sentenced Guillermo Briseno on Tuesday, telling him the Imperial Gangsters&#39; drug dealing and rash of shootings had terrorized residents in the city of East Chicago.</p><p>The Times of Munster <a href="http://bit.ly/XzqHL1" target="_blank">reports</a> Briseno had been the gang&#39;s leader until about 2009, when he began turning his life around while helping his grandfather during a hospital stay.</p><p>He pleaded guilty last year to one count each of conspiracy to racketeer and possessing with the intent to distribute 100 kilograms or more of marijuana.</p><p>As part of his plea agreement, Briseno admitted holding a leadership role in the gang.</p></p> Wed, 13 Feb 2013 08:45:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/ex-gang-leader-gets-87-year-racketeering-sentence-105497 Ex-Chicago cop sentenced in Latin Kings case http://www.wbez.org/news/ex-chicago-cop-sentenced-latin-kings-case-104882 <p><p>HAMMOND, Ind. &mdash; A former Chicago police officer has been sentenced to 19 years in federal prison after he pleaded guilty to stealing from drug dealers and turning the money and drugs over to Latin Kings gang members.</p><p>The Times of Munster reports that Alex Guerrero wept and apologized to his family as he was sentenced Friday in U.S. District Court in Hammond, Ind.</p><p>Guerrero pleaded guilty last year to federal charges of racketeering activity, conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine and marijuana, interfering with commerce by threats or violence and carrying a gun during crimes of violence and drug trafficking.</p><p>He acknowledged wearing his Chicago police uniform during the crimes, which often were portrayed as police action.</p><p>Twenty-three gang members and associates were indicted in the case.</p></p> Sat, 12 Jan 2013 12:16:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/ex-chicago-cop-sentenced-latin-kings-case-104882