City of South Bend set to 'home-grow' next generation of police officers

NOW: City of South Bend set to ’home-grow’ next generation of police officers

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The City of South Bend is taking steps to fix the relationship between police officers and the community they serve with an initiative called the ‘Homegrown Project.’

According to the Diversity and Inclusion Officer Christina Brooks, the project will allow people in the community to nominate individuals from their communities to become law enforcement officers with the South Bend Police Department. City administration laid out this initiative and others on Monday during Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s update to the South Bend Common Council. 

“We all feel like this is such an important process for us to go through as a city,” she said. “We want to make sure that everybody is doing what they can to make sure that we solve this problem in South Bend.”

Currently, nearly 20 percent of people applying for the police force are Black, according to SBPD data. Nine percent are Hispanic and 65 percent are White. 

In the Mayor’s update, the project is listed under ‘new steps include bridging gap in schools partnership.’ Brooks said the project will target diversity on the police force and find applicants that are embedded in the community. 

“There has to be trust,” Brooks said. “We have to do a lot more and we have to hold each other accountable.”

ABC 57 News held an informal poll with teens at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center on Linden Avenue and La Casa de Amistad on Meade Street. When asked if they were nominated, could they see themselves on the police department, two out of eight raised their hands for ‘yes.’ 

Others like Kyrin McClatchey, a John Adams High School junior, said they know people they could nominate. McClatchey said his nominee is someone that is respectful of others. 

“They know everything that’s going on,” he said. “They kind of want to make a change no matter how small it is.”

However, Lauraine Davidson, a graduate of Washington High School, said law enforcement is not her area of expertise and her trust in the judicial system has declined dramatically. 

“I wouldn’t see myself aligning with something I don’t believe in,” she said. 

The department declined an interview about the program. But a spokesperson wrote in an e-mail that the department is currently accepting applications for the next hiring process. 

The application deadline is August 12. 

By the numbers, there are 242 sworn SBPD officers - 88 percent are White, 5.4 percent are Black, and 4.9 percent are Hispanic. 

The rollout of the program will come after controversial police-involved shooting from June 16. Many in the community have claimed the incident broke the trust between people and the police department. 

“It’s a good step,” Davidson said. “I think the people that are trying but there definitely needs to be something else.”

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