Changes to CMHU could stall homicide investigations in St. Joseph County

NOW: Changes to CMHU could stall homicide investigations in St. Joseph County

St. Joseph County could see a backlog of homicide investigations in less than a month.

South Bend Police Department is withdrawing from the St. Joseph County Metro Homicide and Special Victims Units; ending a 30-year, county-wide investigative partnership in 2022.

Logistically, that means transferring all active and cold cases from CMHU headquarters to South Bend, Mishawaka, and St. Joseph County Police Department. All physical evidence, including hundreds of evidence containers at CMHU, will need to be transferred, as well.

In an email ABC57 obtained through a public records request, St. Joseph County Prosecutor Ken Cotter said the transition will likely stop active homicide investigations by mid-October.

SVU investigations could freeze by mid-November.

    “This process will take a substantial amount of time (both the evidence processing and the case updating and sorting). I anticipate that sometime in mid-October, the CMHU will no longer be able to investigate active cases. Because there is fewer evidence held at the SVU, the process will take less time than at the CMHU. I anticipate the need to discontinue investigating cases at the SVU to begin sometime in mid-November.”

                - Prosecutor Cotter to South Bend Mayor James Mueller & South Bend Chief of Police Scott Ruszkowski, 9/1/2021

Despite this, South Bend Mayor James Mueller said he believes, with SBPD's current staffing shortage, leaving the SMHU will make South Bend safer in the long term.

“This is a critical part of our policing,” Mueller said. “And it will continue to be a priority in our policing. And this is the best way we can deploy our resources given the staffing that we have.”

Click here for more on South Bend's decision to end the CMHU. 

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