Nearly 80% of South Bend Police officers have considered leaving department, FOP says

NOW: Nearly 80% of South Bend Police officers have considered leaving department, FOP says

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — About 80 percent of current South Bend Police officers say they’ve considered leaving the department, according to a survey released Wednesday by the South Bend Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #36.

The anonymous online survey was given to all 220 current police officers with the South Bend Police Department over the course of the last week. 191 completed the survey, the FOP said.

“Today, the South Bend Police Department is already facing a double-digit officer shortage that’s threatening the department’s ability to operate effectively,” Harvey Mills, South Bend Fraternal Order of Police lodge #36 President said in a post to the organization's Facebook page. “Our survey this week showed that a stunning 80 percent of current officers have recently considered resigning or transferring from the South Bend Police Department. If even 10 percent of those officers left the force it could cripple the department and lead to the elimination of units that investigate sexual assault and homicide.”

In rating the morale within the department, 40 percent of officers said morale was “as bad as it’s ever been” and 39% rated the morale as “poor.”

Less than 3% rated the morale as “good” and none said that morale was “great,” the FOP said.

The survey was given to officers after the South Bend Common Council indefinitely tabled a pay increase for officers during a meeting on June 8.

The FOP said Wednesday that the tabling of the pay increase further damaged morale. 

Critics of the pay increase said that if salaries are increased, they should be accompanied by a higher level of accountability for officers.

During the same meeting, the Council voted to table the ordinance establishing a citizen's police complaint board until June 22 so that the Council has more time to layout the training that members would have to go through.

On June 16, the public was able to comment on the proposed citizen's review board. Another public meeting regarding the review board is scheduled for June 18 at 6 p.m. at Boehm Park.

The FOP has said previously that it supports the idea of a citizen's review board.

The survey results were released as protests calling for police reform are held in South Bend and across the nation and just one day after President Donald Trump signed an executive order that establishes a database that tracks police officers with excessive use-of-force complaints in their records. The executive order also creates a financial incentive for police departments to adopt best practices and encourage co-responder programs. 

Several demonstrations over the past few weeks have resulted in protesters gathering outside of the South Bend Police Department, calling for policy reform at the local law enforcement level. 

South Bend Mayor James Mueller on Monday announced the banning of choke holds in the new use of force policy, which will be released to the public for comment in the coming weeks. 

The Chief of the South Bend Police Department, Scott Ruszkowski, released a statement Wednesday late afternoon.

"We sympathize and empathize with communities and officers around the country, and especially here at home, that are struggling to find motivation. I would encourage the good officers (vast majority) to remember why we took our oath, and how it felt and meant when we did.

We put on the badge every day to protect and serve our community with fairness and impartiality. Even in the toughest of times, we can’t forget that promise. Our community needs us and we need them.

We have to continue to work together because ‘the police are the public and the public are the police.’ 

I know we will get through this and be even better than before."

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