City councilmember calls for independent review of Elkhart Police Department

NOW: City councilmember calls for independent review of Elkhart Police Department

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An Elkhart common councilmember is calling for an independent, third party to review past cases investigated by Elkhart police officers with a known history of misconduct.

Following ABC57s reporting on issues inside the Elkhart Police Department, councilman David Henke wants to see Mayor Rod Roberson hire an outside investigator. 

“Everyone deserves justice. Be it our turn, our neighbors, our family. But justice has to be the prevailing factor that we work towards. So regardless of its cost, regardless of our opinion, we have to go back and provide sanctity for justice. That way we can actually, openly, honestly move this department forward,” Henke said in an interview with ABC57 News.

Past investigations by the Elkhart Police Department have led to multiple exonerations, and multi-million dollar settlements. Another potential settlement could end up in the hands of Andrew Royer, who was wrongfully convicted for a 2002 murder. Royer has a pending federal lawsuit against the city. The officer who investigated the case, Carl Conway, was shown to have coerced a confession and lied under oath. Elkhart police chief Kris Seymore called Conway’s actions “an assault upon the institution of justice.”

But Chief Seymore, and Mayor Roberson, have told ABC57 they don’t want an independent review of any other cases Conway investigated.

An independent review of all cases involving an officer with documented misconduct is not legally required, but councilman Henke believes the city does have a moral obligation.

“A resolution will not make change. An ordinance will not make change. This comes from the mayor to the chief, on the heels of the public monitoring and looking,” Henke said.  “And in fact, the ring around the department is deeper. And the department is somewhat separated [between] those that want to stay as they were, and those that want to bring the department up.”

Reading over the 97-page review of the Elkhart Police Department from the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), Henke believes the city has failed to meet its recommendations. The PERF report said it’s “important that EPD establish a culture of transparency and accountability”. Something, in Henke’s opinion, isn’t possible without a thorough investigation.

“We have to provide safety, security, honesty through transparency. That’s a minimum requirement,” Henke said. “I’m vocal about it because I think we have the ability to move forward if we’re honest about it.”

ABC57 News has reached out to every member of the Elkhart Common Council on this issue. Kevin Bullard said he believes the decision should be left to Mayor Roberson. The rest have not responded with an opinion.

An earlier version of this story said Kevin Bullard was against an independent review. Clarifying his stance, Bullard said he believes the decision should be left to the current city administration. 

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