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Elkhart Mayor: 'This is on me' regarding Elkhart Police excessive force case

ELKHART, Ind. --- Elkhart Mayor Tim Neese addressed community concerns about excessive force on the police department at his town hall event on Wednesday.

Residents asked Mayor Neese a range questions about the excessive force case. Elkhart City District 4 Councilmember Dwight Fish asked the mayor how he will bridge trust between the community and the police after the incident.

“The citizens that I’ve talked to are concerned,” said Fish.

On January 12, two Elkhart Police officers were caught on surveillance camera using force to control a suspect that spit at one of the officers. Mayor Neese said he saw the footage three weeks ago.

“This is on me, I take responsibility for what happened on January 12,” said Neese.

Mayor Neese said after he saw the video he called the chief who was out of town at the time. He said since then, the chief, himself, and legal counsel have spoken about the matter five times - three times in person.

He said he disciplined Elkhart Police Chief Ed Windbigler on Wednesday. He did not go into the details of the discipline but said he has full confidence in Chief Windbigler.

“We’re not putting this behind us, because we’re not going to forget it,” Neese said. “But it’s about trying to avoid it into the future.”

He said the city is working to create an excessive force committee, which will document patterns of excessive force within the police department. Mayor Neese said the committee will be comprised of the Assistant Chief of Police, one Captain, an internal affairs officer, and three more positions.

Residents at the town hall said they’d like to see community members be a part of the committee and the city establish a civilian oversight group. Councilmember Fish said he would’ve like to see the two officers fired and the city do damage control.

“We need to work hard, harder than ever to make sure that we’re doing the right job to give them the confidence to make them feel good about paying their taxes and living in a city that supposedly has a heart,” Fish said.

Currently, the two officers have been charged with criminal battery and are on paid leave. Mayor Neese said the paid leave will be addressed on Thursday.

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