WBEZ | Indiana http://www.wbez.org/tags/indiana 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 Latinos worry after losing longtime seat in the Indiana Statehouse http://www.wbez.org/news/latinos-worry-after-losing-longtime-seat-indiana-statehouse-111079 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Reardon loses .jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In the wake of this week&rsquo;s sweeping GOP victories, some Latinos say they&rsquo;ve lost an important voice in the Indiana Statehouse.</p><p>Indiana&rsquo;s longest serving Latino state legislator, Democrat Mara Candelaria Reardon of Munster, was first elected to the Indiana House in 2006.</p><p>For years, she was the state&rsquo;s only Latino lawmaker, but on Tuesday she lost a close election to her Republican opponent Bill Fine.</p><p>Reardon&rsquo;s district, which once included heavily Hispanic areas like Hammond and East Chicago, shrunk over the last 8 years due to GOP-led redistricting.</p><p>Her seat had been held by a Latino for the last 32 years going back to when Jesse Villalpando Jr. was first elected to the seat.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s changed drastically. It&rsquo;s certainly gotten less and less Democratic and less and less Hispanic,&rdquo; Reardon said. &ldquo;It makes me sad that it&rsquo;s not a Latina seat anymore.&rdquo;</p><p>Reardon&rsquo;s defeat leaves State Rep. Christina Hale, a Democrat from Indianapolis who is part-Cuban, as Indiana&rsquo;s only Latino legislator.</p><p>At 5 percent, Indiana&rsquo;s Latino population has steadily grown over the last decade, including areas like Fort Wayne and Indianapolis.</p><p>In Lake County, Indiana, which includes Reardon&rsquo;s district, the Latino population is 12 percent. The history of the Hispanic community in Northwest Indiana dates back to the early 1900s when Mexicans began arriving in large numbers to work in the factories in East Chicago.</p><p>&ldquo;I think it does help to have someone of a Latino background,&quot; Hale said. &quot;And, I&rsquo;m a firm believer that our state legislature and our government should reflect our community and right now it doesn&rsquo;t.&rdquo;</p><p>Hale entered the Indiana House in 2012, and on Tuesday won re-election in a Republican-leaning district.</p><p>She views Reardon as a mentor and someone who championed issues important to Latinos, such as education. She also points to Reardon&rsquo;s fight against state laws that some viewed as being anti-immigrant.</p><p>&ldquo;We do need more people of Latino descent, and more women, different age groups, different perspectives being reflected in our legislature,&rdquo; Hale said. &ldquo;Right now, it&rsquo;s fairly homogeneous.&rdquo;</p><p>Representative-elect Fine beat Reardon by 422 votes to win the seat. He lost to Reardon two years ago.</p><p>Fine says he&rsquo;s aware of issues that may be important to Latinos, although the new district boundaries don&rsquo;t include the predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods it once did.</p><p>Fine, who is a lawyer, says his son-in-law is Mexican-American, and he has several friends who are also Latino.</p><p>&ldquo;There are all kinds of issues that are important to Hispanics,&rdquo; Fine said. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think of it as a single-minded perspective, or single-minded issues. &hellip; And, not all Hispanics are in line with Democrats.&rdquo;</p><p>Before the 12th House district was redrawn, it encompassed a wide area from the shores of Lake Michigan in Whiting to the town of Dyer about 15 miles south.</p><p>&ldquo;Democrats benefited from the sense that it made it nearly impossible for a Republican to win,&rdquo; Fine said.</p><p>The new boundaries for the 12th District include parts of Munster, Highland and Griffith, wealthier areas with few minorities.</p><p>Fine noted that the areas with large Hispanic populations, Hammond, East Chicago and Whiting, are represented by non-Latino, white or black Democrats, most of whom have been in office for years.</p><p>John Aguilera, who represented the 12th District for eight years and succeeded Villalpando, wasn&rsquo;t surprised by Reardon&rsquo;s loss to Fine.</p><p>&ldquo;The way the district was lined up, I could see that coming,&rdquo; Aguilera, of East Chicago, said.</p><p>But Aguilera does put some of the blame of Reardon&rsquo;s loss on her fellow House Democrats.</p><p>&ldquo;I was a little disturbed that other Democratic legislators didn&rsquo;t accommodate her somewhat,&rdquo; Aguilera said. &ldquo;In Indiana, you can&rsquo;t create a district for one particular nationality or race but you can create a district based on communities of interest. But the Hispanic community is an afterthought. They pay it lip service.&rdquo;</p><p>For a time, Democrats Reardon and Hale found an ally in State Rep. Rebecca Kubacki, a Republican of Mexican descent, whose district included the City of Elkhart. But earlier this year Kubacki lost in the primary and won&rsquo;t serve a second two-year term.</p><p>&ldquo;It breaks my heart to think that this coming year that I will be the only one left,&rdquo; Hale said. &ldquo;It doesn&rsquo;t seem right and doesn&rsquo;t seem appropriate.&rdquo;</p></p> Fri, 07 Nov 2014 12:47:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/latinos-worry-after-losing-longtime-seat-indiana-statehouse-111079 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 Indiana same-sex marriage proponents celebrate Supreme Court decision http://www.wbez.org/news/indiana-same-sex-marriage-proponents-celebrate-supreme-court-decision-110904 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Gay-Marriage-.png" alt="" /><p><p>Kelly Dooley says it doesn&rsquo;t take much for him and his friends to celebrate.</p><p>But on Monday night, Dooley raised his glass for a toast at a restaurant in Crown Point, Indiana.</p><p>Dooley and about a dozen friends celebrated the U.S. Supreme Court&rsquo;s inaction, which nullifies Indiana&rsquo;s ban on same-sex marriage.</p><p>Although Dooley got married eight years ago in Canada, his marriage to his husband Matthew wasn&rsquo;t recognize by Indiana -- until now.</p><p>&ldquo;This is a great day. We&rsquo;re very, very happy here with this group,&rdquo; Dooley said.</p><p>Dooley&rsquo;s friend Jacqueline Castro joined the celebration.</p><p>&ldquo;(I) Never saw it coming,&rdquo; Castro said. &ldquo;Never in my wildest dreams did I think this would happen, no. Not in Indiana.&rdquo;</p><p>Castro&rsquo;s been with her partner Nancy for 20 some years. She married in late June when a federal judge initially nixed Indiana&rsquo;s same-sex marriage ban.</p><p>That ruling was appealed by the State of Indiana. Her marriage, and that of hundreds of other same-sex couples, was put on hold.</p><p>That hold was dropped once the U.S. Supreme Court refused Monday to hear Indiana&rsquo;s case and similar ones filed by Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Utah and Virginia.</p><p>This makes same-sex marriage legal in 30 states and the District of Columbia.</p><p>Castro says the ruling brings a sense of security for her and her wife.</p><p>&ldquo;Now, no matter what happens to me, my partner will be secure in her future and vise-versa. It&rsquo;s no different than anybody else,&rdquo; Castro said.</p><p>But not everyone is celebrating the decision.</p><p>Just up the street at a coffee shop, Kent Lane says he can&rsquo;t and won&rsquo;t support gay marriage.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t like it. Not at all,&rdquo; said Lane, who lives in the the town of Remington, about 20 miles south of Crown Point.&nbsp; &ldquo;It just should be between a man and a woman. It&rsquo;s wrong in the Bible. It&rsquo;s wrong, period. Like they said way back, It was Adam and Eve, it wasn&rsquo;t Adam and Steve.&rdquo;</p><p>Lane isn&rsquo;t alone.</p><p>Dr. Ron Johnson Jr.&nbsp; is a local minister and head of the Indiana Pastors Alliance.</p><p>&ldquo;I think what this is a sign of is the deep moral darkness that our nation is in right now that we can&rsquo;t figure out something as something as commonsensical as the fact that marriage should be between a man and woman who can have children,&rdquo; Dr. Johnson said.&nbsp;</p><p>Dr. Johnson is also miffed that the court nullified the will of most Hoosiers who supported the state&rsquo;s definition of marriage.</p><p>&ldquo;I just get deeply concerned when we have judges who think they know better than the millions of Hoosiers who already weighed in a situation or who should be given the opportunity to weigh in on a situation,&rdquo; Johnson said.</p><p>Although he doesn&rsquo;t support the ruling, Indiana&rsquo;s Republican Gov. Mike Pence says he will respect it.</p><p>Pence urges Indiana residents to continue to demonstrate civility and &quot;respect the beliefs of all people in our state.&quot;</p><p>But Indiana Senate Pro Tem David Long, a Republican from Fort Wayne, was shocked by the Supreme Court&rsquo;s inaction.</p><p>&ldquo;It is surprising, given the importance of this issue to our society, that the U.S. Supreme Court has decided not to take up this matter, but instead to rely upon lower court rulings,&rdquo; Long said. &ldquo;That being said, the Court appears to have sent a message that if they ultimately do hear these cases, they will support these lower court rulings, and find that same-sex marriage is on equal footing with traditional marriage.&rdquo;</p><p>Long added an effort to write a same-sex marriage ban into the Indiana&rsquo;s constitution is also over after several years of trying.</p><p>&ldquo;The effort to amend the Indiana Constitution to define marriage as the union of one man and one woman would appear to be over unless the U.S. Supreme Court reverses its decision and ultimately takes up the matter in the future to overturn the current decision by the 7th Circuit concerning Indiana law,&rdquo; Long said. &ldquo;Given today&rsquo;s ruling, that appears unlikely.&rdquo;</p><p>Kelly Dooley knows not everyone will be happy with the ruling, but says Indiana has already come a long way in terms of accepting same-sex marriage.</p><p>&ldquo;(Attitudes) are not going to flip over night and it&rsquo;s going to be a long time,&rdquo; Dooley said. &ldquo;But I said it once before and say it again: Had I ever been asked 20 years ago that this would be like this, I could have said no.&rdquo;</p><p>County clerk offices through Indiana are gearing up for what could be a busy day on Tuesday.</p><p>There is no waiting period as judges can perform marriage ceremonies today.</p><p><em>The Associated Press contributed to this story.</em></p><p><em>Michael Puente is WBEZ&rsquo;s Northwest Indiana Bureau reporter. Following him on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/MikePuenteNews">@MikePuenteNews</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 07 Oct 2014 07:51:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/indiana-same-sex-marriage-proponents-celebrate-supreme-court-decision-110904 Officer's death highlights need for trauma center in Northwest Indiana http://www.wbez.org/news/officers-death-highlights-need-trauma-center-northwest-indiana-110790 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Trauma-NWI-crop.jpg" title="The hearse carrying the body of fallen Merrillville, Indiana Police Officer Nickolaus Schultz passes by the police station where he worked. Some say Schultz’s death highlights the need for advanced trauma care in Northwest Indiana. (WBEZ/Michael Puente)" /></div><p>On a gloomy Wednesday afternoon this week, dozens of onlookers lined the streets outside the Town Hall and Police Station in Merrillville, Indiana.<br /><br />They were there to honor Police Officer Nickolaus Schultz, the town&rsquo;s first officer to die in the line of duty.</p><p>A long string of squad cars with flashing blue lights escorted the 24-year-old&rsquo;s body on its way back from the Cook County Medical Examiner&rsquo;s Office in Chicago.</p><p>Carol Miano, the president of the Merrillville Town Council, wiped away tears as they passed in front of her.</p><p>&ldquo;He was sworn in in my first term as president and he died in my second term as president,&rdquo; Miano said. &ldquo;Everybody is heartbroken. The residents, everyone in this community.&rdquo;<br /><br />Schultz was shot in the head late Friday evening while responding to a call at an condominium complex in Merrillville.</p><p>The Lake County, Indiana Coroner&rsquo;s Office reported 33-year-old Michael Hrnciar died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after he shot Schultz. Police were called to a condo where Hrnciar had been evicted but was trying to return. Hrnciar was later found to be wearing body armor.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Trauma-NWI-2.jpg" style="height: 250px; width: 250px; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px; float: left;" title="Merrillville Police Officer Nickolaus Schultz is shown in his police uniform and as a member of the Grizzlies football team for Franklin College in Franklin, Indiana. (Photo provided by the Merrillville Police Department)" />After Schultz was shot, he was first taken to Methodist Hospital Southlake in Merrillville. But in order to get advanced care, Schultz had to be transported nearly an hour west to Illinois.<br /><br />That&rsquo;s because the nearest Level 1 trauma center is Advocate Christ Medical Center in south suburban Oak Lawn.<br /><br />It&rsquo;s unclear whether Officer Schultz could&rsquo;ve been saved by more urgent care. But what is urgently clear, according to some local officials, including Miano, is that Northwest Indiana needs much better trauma care.</p><p>Miano believes the state of Indiana should put money behind that effort.<br /><br />&ldquo;Because it will help out every resident in the area in Northwest Indiana,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Getting access to trauma care for a critically injured person could be a matter of life or death.</p><p>&ldquo;What&rsquo;s important about quality care in that first hour - the golden hour - whereas if the person is not doing well, their chances of survival decreases as the length of time that the surgeon gets on the scene elapses,&rdquo; says Dr. Michael McGee, Emergency Department doctor and Medical Director for Methodist Hospitals.</p><p>Methodist Hospital operates two campus; one in Gary and another 15 miles away in Merrillville.</p><p>Officer Schultz was transported initially to the hospital&rsquo;s Merrillville campus before moving on to Advocate Christ Medical Center.</p><p>&ldquo;That definitely was an unfortunate situation and you have to have special neurosurgeons who were there to do what needs to be done. And even when he got to where he went, which was a level 1 trauma center in Advocate Christ, at that point, for those kinds of injuries, they&#39;re so severe, there&rsquo;s really not much that can be done,&rdquo; McGee said.</p><p>But Jennifer Mullen says regardless of Schultz&rsquo;s condition, that doesn&rsquo;t lessen the need for a trauma center in Northwest Indiana.</p><p>&ldquo;We see industrial accidents, we&rsquo;re so close to the industrial corridor along the lakeshore. We are geographically located between three major highways,&rdquo; said Mullen, a registered nurse at Methodist Hospital who is also coordinator of its trauma services. &ldquo;We certainly have a high incidence of crime in Northwest Indiana so the population we see trauma wise is varied,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>The cost of establishing and maintaining a trauma center is expensive.</p><p>Even in Illinois there are large voids: Chicago&rsquo;s south side, the far south suburbs and even in downstate southeastern Illinois.</p><p>In Northwest Indiana, Dr. McGee&rsquo;s been pushing for years to expand trauma care as part of a state task force.</p><p>But he says the money it takes to pay for for specially trained nurses, physician specialists who are on constant call or stay at the hospital, along with state-of-the-art equipment can run pretty high for hospitals.</p><p>&ldquo;Unlike other states, that have some kind of tax -- in terms of automobile, alcohol, smoking, that will go toward trauma have funds set up -- our state does not have that,&rdquo; McGee said. &ldquo;We got people all over the area now who want to be a trauma center but there&rsquo;s no teeth in the fact that there&rsquo;s no money to become a very independent and sufficient trauma center.&rdquo;</p><p>To become a trauma center, a hospital must first decide if it&rsquo;s a financially viable option, said Arthur L. Logsdon, Assistant Commissioner for the Indiana State Department of Health.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;Hospitals have to make the decision as to why they want to be a trauma center,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>The state of Indiana has historically ranked near the bottom of the nation for access to trauma care for residents. But the state is trying to change that by establishing a trauma care network and working with hospitals to try to achieve trauma level status.</p><p>That assistance, however, does not come with state funding.</p><p>Still, Logsdon said there are twice as many trauma centers in the state today compared to just two years ago.</p><p>&ldquo;The 19 that we have, have all done it on their own dime. There have been no state dollars that have gone into that development,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>And those 19 now include Methodist Hospital&rsquo;s Gary facility. Just this week the hospital celebrated its designation as a Level 3 trauma center with a visit from local and state dignitaries, hospital brass and others.&nbsp;</p><p>Level 3 is not as advanced as Level 1 or Level 2 centers in Indianapolis or Chicago, but Dr. McGee says it&rsquo;s a start.</p><p>&ldquo;About 85 percent to 90 percent of the patients that we have that involved trauma we can take care of them but there&rsquo;s a few that still need the services of a level 1 trauma center,&rdquo; he said.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Trauma-NWI-4.jpg" title="The Trauma Area at Methodist Hospital in Gary, Indiana which is now designated as a Level 3 Trauma Center, the first for Northwest Indiana. (Photo by WBEZ/Michael Puente)" /></div><p>Injuries sustained by fallen Merrillville Police Officer Nickolaus Schultz would&rsquo;ve still required transfer to an out-of-area Level 1 trauma center.</p><p>Longtime Indiana State Rep. Charlie Brown, a Democrat from Gary, has been trying to get Indiana to provide funding for just such a trauma center to help offset costs.</p><p>&ldquo;That takes a lot of money and so there is going to need some partnerships and coordination in order for that to occur,&rdquo; Brown said. &ldquo;We are all aware that there is a need for state involvement in the whole trauma system and it&rsquo;s moving in that direction.&rdquo;</p><p>But it&rsquo;s moving more slowly than Dr. McGee would like.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I think the people in the community need to talk and lobby to their politicians, to their representatives and basically advocate for some kind of tax that can go toward funding for trauma,&rdquo; McGee said.</p><p>Funeral services for Nicholaus Schultz are scheduled for Monday. He will be laid to rest in his hometown of Lowell, Indiana.</p><p><em>Michael Puente is WBEZ&rsquo;s Northwest Indiana Bureau Reporter. Follow him on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/MikePuenteNews">@MikePuenteNews</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 12 Sep 2014 08:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/officers-death-highlights-need-trauma-center-northwest-indiana-110790 Two neighboring states, one big financial gap http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/two-neighboring-states-one-big-financial-gap-110718 <p><p>George Brown of Valparaiso, Indiana, works for a steel mill these days, but at one time, his main gig was construction &mdash; across the state border in Chicago. The commute and that &ldquo;living in both worlds&rdquo; familiarity didn&rsquo;t prevent him from noting differences between the two states. Among them: The differing fortunes of state government.</p><p>He had picked up details here and there about how Illinois owed money (the state comptroller recently said Illinois has more than $5 billion in unpaid bills), how the Prairie State was hounded by bills coming down the pike (it has approximately $100 billion in unfunded pension liabilities), and how it has the worst credit rating among U.S. states.</p><p>On the other hand, just a few years ago, Indiana&rsquo;s coffers were so flush that it returned money to state taxpayers.</p><p>The night-and-day financial picture between the neighboring states got him wondering enough that he sent us this question:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>Why does the state of Illinois have a huge deficit, while next door Indiana has a surplus?</em></p><p>George&rsquo;s question couldn&rsquo;t come at a better time. Voters on the Illinois side of the border are deciding between candidates for governor, either of which is certain to confront some hard fiscal realities. The contest between the incumbent Democrat, Gov. Pat Quinn, and Republican Bruce Rauner is odd, though, in that there&rsquo;s a phantom player in the mix, too: Mitch Daniels, Indiana&rsquo;s former governor of Indiana.</p><p>Rightly or wrongly, Daniels is credited with cutting Indiana&rsquo;s budget and making the state&rsquo;s finances the envy of Illinois as well as the rest of the nation. Quinn pushes back on some of Daniels&rsquo; key tenets, while Rauner says he wants to emulate what Daniels did.</p><p>Regardless of where you fall on whether any state at all should follow &ldquo;the Daniels playbook,&rdquo; it is worth looking at what happened during his watch.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Daniels&rsquo; account of how the Hoosier State did it</span></p><p>After an eight-year term, Daniels left the governor&rsquo;s office in 2013. He&rsquo;s now president of Purdue University in West Lafayette. He rarely talks politics now, but after hearing George&rsquo;s question, he was happy to revisit his tenure as governor, especially as it relates to Illinois&rsquo; financial mess.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s hard not to notice, I mean it&rsquo;s national news the trouble you folks have had,&rdquo; Daniels said. &ldquo;They asked me what it was like and I said it&rsquo;s sort of like living right next door to&nbsp;<em>The Simpsons</em>, you know. Dysfunctional family on the block and we&rsquo;re looking in the window.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Daniels purdue shot..jpg" title="Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels delivers the State of the State address to a joint session of the Legislature at the Statehouse Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)" /></div><p>As Daniels tells it, things were bad for Indiana as he entered office nearly a decade ago.</p><p>&ldquo;The state was absolutely, by a literal definition, bankrupt,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;So, it had bills much bigger than whatever cash it had on hand. We said this has to end and I want to do it as fast as possible.&rdquo;</p><p>On his first day as governor in 2005, Daniels did something that is unimaginable in Illinois: He stripped bargaining rights for all state union employees.</p><p>&ldquo;These union agreements wouldn&rsquo;t let you change anything,&rdquo; Daniels said. &ldquo;You couldn&rsquo;t consolidate departments; you couldn&rsquo;t divide departments or reorganize them. You certainly couldn&rsquo;t outsource anything if you thought you could get it better and cheaper by hiring Hoosiers in the private sector. So, I finally decided that we simply had to cut clean.&rdquo;<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/indiana icon.png" style="float: right;" title="Indiana." /></p><p>But Andrew Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics in Fort Wayne, says it&rsquo;s uncertain how effective Daniel&rsquo;s move was in shoring up the state&rsquo;s bottom line.</p><p>&ldquo;Some would argue that when the unions had less ability to bargain, it made it easier for the governor to get some things done,&rdquo; Downs said. &ldquo;But given (Daniels&rsquo;) personality, I don&rsquo;t know if that would have been the sort of thing that held him back a whole lot. I think it had more to do with his approach to economics: The freer the trade, the better.&rdquo;</p><p>Daniels didn&rsquo;t stop with state union employees.</p><p>A few years later, he signed a bill to make Indiana the Midwest&rsquo;s first right-to-work state. The policy changed workers&rsquo; relationship to private employers; new employees were no longer required to pay union dues at workplaces governed by union contracts. It effectively weakened unions&rsquo; standing in the state. Indiana&rsquo;s GOP argues the move attracted business to the state and that, in turn, boosted state revenue.</p><p>Daniels also pushed through a cap on local property taxes across the state. The cap limits the amount of taxes local communities can collect from a homeowner at one percent of a home&rsquo;s assessed value. Proponents say that&rsquo;s lead to robust home sales and &mdash; again, the argument goes &mdash; puts money back into the state&rsquo;s coffers.</p><p>If you hear Daniels and other supporters tell it, these policies created enough fiscal momentum that a few years ago the state sent $100 checks to each Indiana taxpayer. The state currently has a $2 billion stockpile, which it&rsquo;s likely to hold onto this time around.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/stillinoyed billboard image2.jpg" title="An example of a Stillinoyed campaign billboard designed to highlight Indiana's business opportunities. (Source: Economic Development Corporation, Indiana)" /></div></div><p><span style="font-size:22px;">The fallout</span></p><p>If you&rsquo;ve driven through the Chicago area, perhaps you&rsquo;ve seen billboards along expressways that read <a href="http://www.in.gov/activecalendar/EventList.aspx?fromdate=3/1/2014&amp;todate=3/31/2014&amp;display=Month&amp;type=public&amp;eventidn=165015&amp;view=EventDetails&amp;information_id=198305&amp;print=print" target="_blank">&ldquo;Illinnoyed by high taxes?&rdquo;</a> That advertising campaign (<a href="http://www.in.gov/activecalendar/EventList.aspx?fromdate=3/1/2014&amp;todate=3/31/2014&amp;display=Month&amp;type=public&amp;eventidn=165015&amp;view=EventDetails&amp;information_id=198305&amp;print=print" target="_blank">conducted by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation</a>) lures city residents and businesses to cross from Illinois to Indiana.</p><p>Michael Lucci says those ads &mdash; or at least the argument driving them &mdash; works on plenty of Illinois residents. Lucci is the Director of Jobs and Growth at the conservative Illinois Policy Institute. He estimates that Illinois has lost more than 100,000 residents to Indiana over the last decade.</p><p>&ldquo;It does hurt Illinois that we have such a business-friendly neighbor right next door because the people in Chicago can look east 30 miles and say &lsquo;Look, there are jobs there, there are opportunities there and I can move there and still be close to my family,&rsquo;&rdquo; Lucci said.</p><p>But not everyone sees Daniels&rsquo; bumper crop budget as an achievement. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn isn&rsquo;t willing to stomach Daniels&rsquo; sacrifice of collective bargaining rights.</p><p>Earlier this year, the incumbent governor told a union-heavy crowd that he believes in collective bargaining.</p><p>&ldquo;I think that&rsquo;s the best way to go and I look forward to working with you on it,&rdquo; Quinn said during an April debate in Chicago. The governor has argued that strong unions improve state residents&rsquo; income and quality of life.</p><p>Some in Indiana see a darker side to the budget surplus too. Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott Jr. is among them.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/illinois icon.png" style="float: right;" title="Illinois." /></p><p>&ldquo;We do have $2 billion in the bank and we are in a much better position in Indiana than they are fiscally in Illinois, but at the same time, I think Illinois streets might be in better shape than our streets right now,&rdquo; McDermott said. &ldquo;I think Illinois is providing better services during crisis than we are because they have more tools available. It cuts both ways.&rdquo;</p><p>McDermott, a Democrat, said that last winter the state did a poor job dealing with the snow and ice that shut down several Indiana highways. (Notably, according to the most recent report by the American Society of Civil Engineers, both Indiana and Illinois received a &ldquo;D+&rdquo; in infrastructure spending.)</p><p>McDermott&rsquo;s point is this: What&rsquo;s the use of a surplus if some basic services aren&rsquo;t being met?</p><p>&ldquo;We could expand the affordable healthcare act [ACA] in Indiana right now and insure hundreds of thousands of additional Hoosiers but they just refuse to do so even though there is 2 billion dollars in the bank, those hundreds of thousands of Hoosiers don&rsquo;t deserve health care like people in Illinois do,&rdquo; he said.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Does Illinois have a chance of turning things around?</span></p><p>Of all people, Daniels is among those who say &ldquo;yes.&rdquo; Of course, it&rsquo;s no surprise that he recommends Illinois gubernatorial candidates Quinn or Rauner wrangle with public sector unions, pay more bills on time and slash spending. But the architect of Indiana&rsquo;s brand of fiscal conservatism also says Illinois can draw from its own good ideas. And he ought to know: He stole a few of them.</p><p>After <a href="http://tollroadsnews.com/news/chicago-skyway-handed-over-to-cintra-macquarie-after-wiring-1830m" target="_blank">Chicago leased its public Skyway to a private operation</a>, Daniels did the same thing for the Indiana Toll Road.</p><p>And then there was the program to let delinquent taxpayers pay with no penalty.</p><p>&ldquo;I got the legislature to conduct a tax amnesty,&rdquo; Daniels said. &ldquo;Indiana never had one. Many other states have, including Illinois. I can remember citing Illinois. It&rsquo;s kind of ironic now thinking back. I was saying then, &lsquo;Hey look, they had a successful program.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p><em>Michael Puente is WBEZ&#39;s Northwest Indiana Bureau Reporter. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/MikePuenteNews" target="_blank">@MikePuenteNews</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 27 Aug 2014 22:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/two-neighboring-states-one-big-financial-gap-110718 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 Open tryouts and 'indie ball blues' in Indiana http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/open-tryouts-and-indie-ball-blues-indiana-110216 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/bball.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>On a cold, gray morning in Gary, Ind., about 40 baseball hopefuls sat in the Gary Railcats&rsquo; home dugout, looking up at Manager Greg Tagert.</p><p>It was a bleak day, and Tagert&rsquo;s speech to them was equally bleak.</p><p>The men in the dugout had plunked down $40 for a chance to try out for the &lsquo;Cats - an independent-league team that is about as low on the hierarchy as you can get and still be considered pro ball.</p><p>The players trying out were minor-league washouts trying to hold on, or college stars looking for their big break.</p><p>Tagert told them that only a handful of them would make the cut today - five or less. And even those lucky few couldn&rsquo;t count on making the roster.</p><p>Whether or not you&rsquo;re a fan - baseball means American summer as much as barbecues, fireworks and the beach.</p><p>But for the men in that dugout it means something more -- it&rsquo;s an obsession, a dream job.</p><p>WBEZ spent the day at the open tryouts for the Gary Railcats.</p><p>The Railcats were last season&rsquo;s American Association champions - but the team&rsquo;s players are still looking for a way to move up.</p><p>Even though the small-time, Single A Durham Bulls--remember the movie Bull Durham?-- would be a dream come true for many of them, they are all really good at baseball.</p><p>Just about all the guys who tried out starred on their high school baseball teams. They&rsquo;re not good enough for the big leagues, but they are still way better than you.</p><p>The team&rsquo;s home opener is at 7 Thursday evening against the Wichita Wingnuts.&nbsp; They&rsquo;ll be playing at the U.S. Steel Yard in Gary.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Video producer<a href="https://vimeo.com/jscott1908"> John Scott</a> is a filmmaker who lives and works in Chicago.</em></p><p><em>Patrick Smith is a WBEZ Producer and Reporter. Follow him on twitter <a href="http://twitter.com/pksmid" target="_blank">@pksmid</a>.</em></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/150617705&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Wed, 21 May 2014 14:50:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/open-tryouts-and-indie-ball-blues-indiana-110216 Residents decry BP's planned demolition of historic Marktown homes http://www.wbez.org/news/residents-decry-bps-planned-demolition-historic-marktown-homes-110157 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Marktown-1.jpg" style="height: 203px; width: 280px; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px; float: left;" title="Juan Laureano stands outside his Marktown home in East Chicago, Indiana. Laureano opposes a plan by BP to demolish 10 vacant historic homes within the Marktown neighborhood. (WBEZ/Michael Puente)" />When Juan Laureano invites friends to his home, it usually comes with a warning.</p><p>&ldquo;In the invitations I have to explain to them not to panic,&rdquo; Laureano says.&nbsp;</p><p>That&rsquo;s because to get to Laurano&rsquo;s home, you have to pass through one of the most heavily industrialized corridors in the country.</p><p>&ldquo;BP on side, Safety Kleen on the other, USG, Arcelor, so it&rsquo;s imposing. But once you arrive here, it&rsquo;s very peaceful, very quiet. It&rsquo;s home,&rdquo; Laureano adds.</p><p>&lsquo;Home&rsquo; is kind of an island.</p><p>Marktown&rsquo;s roughly 200 buildings are within the City of East Chicago, Indiana &ndash; but cut off from everything around it. With no grocery stores or schools nearby, it&rsquo;s never been high on &ldquo;must see&rdquo; lists for realtors. But five years ago Laureano moved to Marktown from Chicago&rsquo;s West Side.</p><p>&ldquo;You know it&rsquo;s like someone planted a tudor-style English village in the middle of all this industry. It&rsquo;s very unusual,&rdquo; he says.</p><p>So unusual that people park their cars on the sidewalks because the streets are too narrow. Marktown was originally built by industrialist Clayton Mark in 1917 so workers could live near his factory.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Marktown-2.jpg" title="The historic English-style Tudor neighborhood of Marktown. Designed in 1917, it’s narrow streets force cars to park on the sidewalk." /></div><p>The factory didn&rsquo;t last very long but Marks&rsquo; homes did.</p><p>By the 1970s, Marktown was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The planned worker community is often compared to Chicago&rsquo;s Pullman, yet it rarely gets the same attention from preservationists. But with the planned demolition by nearby oil giant BP, that may be changing.</p><p>The 10 structures slated for demolition on Monday are private property and not protected. They&rsquo;ve been vacant for years.</p><p>BP spokesman Scott Dean says they were voluntarily sold by the owners of a local tavern called the George Michel&rsquo;s Bar &ndash; the only business in Marktown.</p><p>&ldquo;Over the past many, many years, we have acquired property all around the perimeter of the refinery to increase green space. Property owners have a right to sell their properties,&rdquo; Dean told WBEZ this week. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a completely voluntary process and being open about the process and we have been very open about it for years.&rdquo;</p><p>Still, Laureano says he can&rsquo;t believe BP would do this.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s kind of sad that BP, being a British company, would want to demolish an English-tudor style village and knowing the bad PR that BP has received, they should use Marktown as an example and revitalize it,&rdquo; Laureano said.</p><p>In fact, the City of East Chicago hired an architecture firm a few years ago to figure out how to do just that.</p><p><a href="http://llnw.wbez.org/insert-images/marktown.jpg" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/insert-images/marktown.jpg" style="width: 280px; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px; float: left;" title="The Marktown area is surrounded by heavy industry. (Satellite image via Google Maps)" /></a></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Marktown-4.jpg" style="height: 201px; width: 280px; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px; float: left;" title="Despite being on the National Register of Historic Places, residents complain that the city of East Chicago, Indiana has done little to preserve and revitalize Marktown." /></p><p>Architect Ed Torrez, who used to head the Chicago Landmarks Commission and now sits on the Board of Advisors of the National Trust of Historic Preservation, <a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.bauerlatozastudio.com%2Fportfolio%2Furban-design-planning%2Fmarktown%2F&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNGP0XHgssLZ5q6XsVMsU1FGSHbgFw">led the project</a>.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I think (the houses) are a living museum, if you will, on how these were designed by a very talented architect, Van Doren Shaw,&rdquo; Torrez, president and principal of BauerLatoza Studio of Chicago, says.</p><p>Howard Van Doren Shaw was one of Chicago&rsquo;s most famous architects in the late 19th and early 20th century. Torrez once brought a bus load of urban planners from around the country to see Shaw&rsquo;s unique Marktown design in 2010.</p><p>&ldquo;We walked around and they saw the buildings. When we were driving back to Chicago, they were so amazed about this little town,&rdquo; Torrez said. &ldquo;I couldn&rsquo;t believe that it was still there and it was so intact. Pictures do not do it justice. You have to go visit it.&rdquo;</p><p>Torrez said it&rsquo;s a wonder that Marktown has been around this long.</p><p>&ldquo;One of things I&rsquo;m always amazed at it has survived for so long with all the industry that has expanded around, it has stood there as a testimony to how strong and how significant this area is,&rdquo; Torrez said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s been threatened before, a lot of times, lots of money and lots of investment. but It has stood there.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p>Still, Marktown faces many challenges.</p><p>Torrez says the area lacks publically-owned land and a business base to generate taxes. His plan called for the city to capitalize on the area&rsquo;s history to attract more visitors.</p><p>&ldquo;I think a number of the homes could be salvaged. I&rsquo;m saddened to hear about the current [demolition plans] for Marktown,&rdquo; Torrez said. &ldquo;You&rsquo;ll never get it back.&rdquo;</p><p>But while the City of East Chicago is moving forward on revitalizing other areas, Marktown is being left out.</p><p>Some say, despite its history, the neighborhood still has air quality issues.</p><p>&ldquo;I imagine (pollution) could be a factor but I&rsquo;ve been here for 55 years,&rdquo; says longtime resident Kim Rodriguez. Rodriguez also serves as a Democratic precinct committeeman in East Chicago. &ldquo;My brother used to come from Indianapolis and he would always tell me that he could smell the difference in the air.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Marktown-3.jpg" title="Children play in the streets and sidewalks of Marktown. " /></div><p>With nearly 200 structures still in place, BP&rsquo;s bulldozers won&rsquo;t mark the end of Marktown, but Rodriguez worries about its future.</p><p>&ldquo;How long is it going to be before they&rsquo;re coming after you, and your home and your land because that is going to happen,&rdquo; says Rodriguez. &ldquo;BP could do so much for us, instead of destroy us.&rdquo;</p><p>Meanwhile, East Chicago Mayor Anthony Copeland has offered residents incentives to move to other parts of the city where new development is taking place.</p><p>Rodriguez says she&rsquo;s not going anywhere.</p><p>&ldquo;My heart is here,&rdquo; Rodriguez said. &ldquo;I can&rsquo;t imagine walking out of this door and never coming back. I don&rsquo;t know anywhere else.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Michael Puente is WBEZ&rsquo;s Northwest Indiana Bureau reporter. Follow him on Twitter @MikePuenteNews or visit the WBEZ NWI Bureau Facebook page.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Fri, 09 May 2014 10:10:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/residents-decry-bps-planned-demolition-historic-marktown-homes-110157 Judge orders Indiana couple's marriage recognized http://www.wbez.org/news/judge-orders-indiana-couples-marriage-recognized-110008 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Capture_6.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>A ruling Thursday morning by U.S. District Court Judge Richard L. Young requires the state of Indiana to recognize the marriage of a local gay couple. Starting today Niki Quasney and Amy Sandler are Indiana&rsquo;s only legally recognized same-sex couple.</p><p>But only for about a month.</p><p>The temporary restraining order expires in 28 days. The judge made the ruling after an hour-long hearing in Evansville in far southern Indiana.</p><p>The longtime couple who live near Chicago in Munster, Indiana, got married last year in Massachusetts.</p><p>Indiana, however, does not allow same-sex marriage.</p><p>But Quasney is terminally ill with stage 4 ovarian cancer, so they sued to have their marriage recognized&mdash;that way Sandler can receive death benefits afforded other married couples.</p><p>&ldquo;We are happy the court made the decision to recognize their marriage so she can focus on spending quality time in the days she has left with her family,&rdquo; the couple&rsquo;s attorney Paul Castillo said.</p><p>Indiana Attorney General Solicitor General argued against the injunction, stating that under current state law, the marriage statute does not allow for hardship exceptions and the relief sought could not be granted.</p><p>The decision does not affect four other lawsuits challenging Indiana&rsquo;s gay marriage ban.</p><p>Although county clerks in Indiana are still prohibited from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples, Castillo sees it as a positive step forward for gay couples.</p><p>&ldquo;Our goal is to make sure that same-sex couples throughout the state both have an ability to get married within their home state and have their valid out-of-state marriages recognized,&rdquo; Castillo said.</p><p>The issue of same-sex marriage remains a hotly debated issue in Indiana, although opposition isn&rsquo;t as strong as it used to be, even as recently as four years ago.</p><p>An effort to write Indiana&rsquo;s same-sex ban into the state&rsquo;s constitution failed in the Indiana General Assembly in the most recent session that ended in March.</p><p>The marriage amendment was opposed by many major corporations and public universities. &nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 10 Apr 2014 16:04:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/judge-orders-indiana-couples-marriage-recognized-110008