Faith community, leaders seeking police department reform

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - Faith leaders met with South Bend Mayor James Mueller to discuss police reform in the aftermath of an officer-involved killing of an unarmed black man named George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Community members also came together for a prayer gathering outside of the County-City building while the meeting was going on.

It’s been almost a year since South Bend’s own officer-involved shooting of Eric Logan.

The shooting was ruled justified, but faith leaders said they hoped there would have been more that has changed this last year, especially when it comes to the police discipline matrix and holding officers accountable.

The faces of black men like George Floyd in Minneapolis and Eric Logan in South Bend, who were both killed after interactions with police, are bringing back the conversation of police reform locally.

“They want clear standards for police misconduct so the police know, if you do this, this will be your punishment,” Cheryl Ashe, a member of Faith in Indiana, St. Joe chapter said.

Protests across the country demanding for accountability and an end to police brutality, some cities already making changes.

And now, faith leaders met with South Bend Mayor James Mueller to further discuss what they say is a lack of change in our police department.

“Why isn’t it being done? Why is there a constant continuation of procrastination?” Pastor James Williams with the Abundant Faith Family Ministry said.

“Enough time has passed and people in this community will feel safer if they know police commit certain offenses and that those policemen are disciplined,” Ashe said.

Pastor Williams, who sat in the meeting with the mayor, said he left disappointed.

“Very disappointed because it’s a constant moving the needle to the right as opposed to taking a stand and said yes we have a draft available for you. We will present this. We couldn’t even get him to give us a draft. He basically said it’s coming,” he said.

Mueller ran on a platform of public safety and racial justice reform, setting up community meetings to discuss issues like use of force policies and a police discipline matrix to hold officers accountable which he talked about today following the meeting.

“This was a top priority of mine last fall in the campaign and the top priority entering in as mayor in January. Unfortunately, we did get in the way due to COVID-19. We couldn’t have the same level of public meetings and things but we’re still looking forward to following the roadmap and the plan for reform and we should have announcements in the coming days,” Mayor Mueller said.

But faith leaders say it’s all talk until something is implemented.

“We understand that it’s going to take the support from others but right now we are expecting the mayor to take a stand. We didn’t get that today,” Williams said.

The group of faith leaders are asking for an update by Tuesday, on the one year anniversary of Eric Logan’s death.

Mayor Mueller said he understands why these faith leaders are frustrated but that real change takes time.

“Systemic change doesn’t happen with measures that go, if you can snap your finger and make a measure happen, that’s unlikely to achieve the change you want in the long term. So, what we’re working on putting together is near-term medium-term and long-term actions to achieve that change that we all want to see,” he said.

Many want to see the police discipline matrix finally come out to hold officers responsible for their actions and to hear about preventive measures that are going to be implemented.

However, he does say there have already been modifications to use of force policies and there will be more announcements and updates soon having to do with the matrix.

“The one thing that we did a concrete, action item or goal we’re looking to do is to have that discipline matrix out in the near term with a final round of public input with the goal toward adopting that in the July board of public safety,” he said.

In the meantime, Williams and other faith leaders encourage protests to continue until change is made in this city.

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