Former Shreveport Police Chief Chuck Gruber Dies
Former Shreveport Police Chief Charles Gruber has died. He was 74. Gruber served as Chief in Shreveport from 1987-1990. He was appointed by former Mayor John Hussey to take over for Cliff Heap who resigned after evidence surfaced accusing the chief and at least one other officer of accepting expensive gifts.
But the appointment of an "out-of-towner" was met with resistance within the department and Gruber was a polarizing figure in our community. One of his first big policy changes was no freebies for officers. They could no longer accept even a free cup of coffee when they stopped at local convenience stores.
But Gruber was also considered ahead of his time in bringing community policing to our city. But he was surrounded by controversy during his short stint in Shreveport.
He even drew this headline in the New York Times "Yankee' Police Chief Upsetting Shreveport".
He also stepped up the crime fighting as gangs and drugs began flowing into our city. He put Operation THOR (Take Hold Organize and Return) in place to battle the Los Angeles style street gangs that were moving into our area to set up crack kingdoms.
Gruber was also front and center during the Cedar Grove riots of 1988. His police cruiser was attacked with a brick through the windshield and the passenger door was shot.
Hussey and Gruber made the decision during the riot to let things run their course rather than send in a strong show of force. They cordoned off several blocks of Cedar Grove and did not let anyone travel through the area.
Officers were told to maintain their positions on the perimeter and hold fire.
The rioting started when 20 year old William David McKinney was shot an killed by 17-year-old Tammy Vergo during a drug deal outside a convenience store on Line Avenue at East 79th Street. McKinney was an innocent bystander.
Gruber described the scene in testimony about the incident:
The crowd was getting extremely angry, even though I went into the crowd and tried to get them calm and tried to get them back, they were becoming—it was uncontrollable. You could feel the rise in the temperature of the crowd. It was easily getting out of control. And the rocks and bricks were starting to come hard and heavy at police officers, at our vehicles and everything else. And having police officers in the crowd in that close of contact, I felt it was would [sic] not be too long before someone else would get hurt, where they would pull at a police officer or jump a police officer or where we would not be able to control what would happened [sic]. So we pulled back, pulled out.
The riot made national news including this report in the Washington Post.
In 1987, Gruber was involved in a physical altercation with Bubba Hardin who was President of the Fraternal Order of Police. Hardin allegedly punched Gruber in the face in the police parking garage. Gruber threw Hardin to the ground and arrested him.
Former Shreveport City Attorney Charles Grubb says "Gruber was the right guy for the wrong time in Shreveport. Change in any organization can be painful for some, and his detractors ultimately succeeded in forcing him back to Illinois."
Gruber went on to a lengthy career as Chief in Illinois communities. He was a United States Marine and fought in Vietnam.
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