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Black Lives Matter, local advocates raise concerns on police policy, community-police trust

NOW: Black Lives Matter, local advocates raise concerns on police policy, community-police trust

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. — On Thursday, members of Black Lives Matter spoke to a group, which included the family of a man killed in an officer-involved shooting, at Linden Grill in South Bend. 

The event was put together by local activism group called Blacktvists in order to discuss police policy and systemic racism with BLM co-founder Dr. Melina Abdullah. Abdullah said it’s up to the community to decide what happens next after June 16’s fatal officer-involved shooting. 

“The only way we get justice is to get justice on a way that impacts the community that’s still here,” said Abdullah. 

South Bend Police Chief Scott Ruszkowski announces at a Board of Public Safety meeting on Wednesday morning that the department has updated the body camera policy. According to the Chief, every time the squad car door opens the body cam is activated, even if the lights and/or sirens are not on. 

Chief Ruszkowski said the department is looking into a feature that activates the body camera if the gun is removed from its holster. 

“What he gave was a good update,” said Jorden Giger, Blacktivist founder. “But also we have to look to the use of force policies.”

Officials released on Wednesday the resignation letter from Ryan O’Neill to Chief Ruszkowski. 

At tonight’s event, organizers said O’Neill created distrust between the citizens and police when he failed to turn on his body camera before shooting Logan. 

“The trust of police has never been earned for black communities,” Abdullah said. 

A New York-based data group found the community’s trust in the department is low. Elucd surveyed more than 800 people in the community after the shooting and found overall South Bend earned a trust score of 60 out of 100. 

In a statement to ABC 57 News a department spokesperson wrote the following: 

“The South Bend Police Department has and will continue to reach out to our community, and we welcome public input on how to better those relations.

Over the past several years, the department has put emphasis on relationship-policing, including some of the following examples:

-we conducted more than 8,000 walking/school patrols in 2018

-attended community/neighborhood/living room meetings

-held or attended multiple community cookouts

-hosted a trick or treat event that drew more than 6,000 people

-bought gifts for kids and families in distress for the holidays.

This summer there are more than 460 children signed up through the Police Athletic League all-sports camp, tennis, and swimming. During the school year, PAL offers boxing at The Beacon on the city's west side. 

We also maintain and use our own food pantry to supply much-needed food/diapers/formula to those suffering most, at times when nothing else and nobody else is available.

We continue our efforts and have recently added our pizza and popsicle patrols.”

Giger said part of the process of rebuilding trust in the community is having tough dialogue around how to make things better. 

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