- Associated Press - Friday, January 30, 2015

GARY, Ind. (AP) - Gary’s youths have a key role to play in reviving the city.

That was the message police Cmdr. Kerry Rice and Cpl. Derrick Hill conveyed to students Thursday during an assembly at Wirt-Emerson Visual and Performing Arts Academy.

Millions of dollars in economic development grant money is flowing to Gary, and the city’s youths must be prepared to take the jobs that will follow, Rice said.

“The jobs are going to be here,” Rice said. “You have to get ready to get them.”

Principal Adrian Richie told The Times in Munster (https://bit.ly/1uIIjlz ) that Rice and Hill were invited to the school to help students prepare for life after graduation.

Part of the discussion focused on how students should interact with police. Administrators said the talk was necessary given recent controversy over the deaths of Michael Brown, who was shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner, who died after a New York City police officer put him in a chokehold.

Rice told the students police have to do what it takes to go home alive. Eleven police officers have been killed in the line of duty already this year, and 141 were killed last year, he said.

Police don’t want to hurt people or arrest them, said Rice, the head of the Police Department’s Community Services Division.

“You have some great cops, and you have some cops with attitudes,” he said.

Still, police will have it their way most of the time, he said.

“Be courteous. Do what the officer asks of you,” Rice said.

Don’t engage the officer unless you’re being physically harmed, he said.

If you have a concern about the officer’s behavior, wait until he or she leaves and call (219) 881-1260 or 911 and ask to talk to a supervisor, Rice said.

The department doesn’t want bad cops on the force, he said.

“We have fired more officers in the past two years than in the last 10 years, because Gary cannot afford a lawsuit,” he said.

The department also has hired more officers in the last year than it did in the two or three years before, he said.

Rice also engaged the group in a sometimes raucous discussion about truancy, curfew and address notification laws.

Wirt-Emerson had a 100 percent graduation rate last school year, Richie said. That’s an accomplishment achieved by only five schools in the state, he said.

“I can’t brag enough about you,” Richie told the students. “I’m so proud of you.”

When asked if a student coming home from work would get a ticket for being out after a 10 p.m. curfew, Rice said every state in the union forbids those under 17 from working after 10 p.m. The crowd erupted in protest.

Rice advised students who might be out past curfew to behave reasonably.

“We’re not ogres,” he said.

If an officer does write a citation, the students still can seek redress from the courts, he said.

Rice said after the meeting that he gave a similar talk at a church last year. He’s received requests from other private and charter schools in the city and likely will accommodate them, he said.

“I think the kids did listen, for the most part,” Rice said. “I don’t think they took it seriously. I hope this will open their minds to, ‘OK, this is the way I need to act.’”


Information from: The Times, https://www.thetimesonline.com

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