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Mayor, diversity officer, police chief discuss racial justice

NOW: Mayor, diversity officer, police chief discuss racial justice

South Bend's mayor, police chief and diversity officer held a press conference Monday afternoon to discuss racial justice and the city's progress as it nears the one year anniversary of the fatal shooting of Eric Logan.

Mayor James Mueller began by mentioning the anniversary of the fatal shooting of Eric Logan as well as the recent death of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis.

"Out of this darkness, I am more optimistic than ever that this moment will deliver long overdue progress to racial justice both in South Bend and across the country," Mueller said.

He promises change is coming.

One of the reforms is a ban on choke holds in the new use of force policy.

"We must make clear that what happened to George Floyd and others has no place in law enforcement and no place in our city," Mueller said.

The updated policy will be released for public comment in the next couple weeks, Mueller said.

In addition to a new use of force policy, the city will be releasing the discipline matrix later this week.

"The matrix provides guidelines for discipline based on different types of misconduct. This release will keep us on track to adopt the city's first ever matrix at the July Board of Public Safety meeting," Mueller said.

In addition, the mayor says he is working with 21CP to determine when they can present their recommendations to the city.

"The recommendations will include short and long-term options and recommendations and will provide a road map to make reforms in policies, training, accountability, data and reporting, community policing and officer wellness."

Diversity and Inclusion Officer Michael Patton discussed a race relations meeting that was held last Wednesday with employees of the city of South Bend. Employees were able to share their emotions, fears and concerns about racism.

He said the city recognizes racism has been around for over 400 years and it's time to stand up.

"It's important for us to stand up now for justice and to right the field and to begin to address the things that are being cited and the things we continue to see," Patton said.

He also said it's important for all residents to want change in their community.

South Bend Police Chief Scott Ruszkowski then spoke about how the department is addressing racial justice.

He commented the anniversary of Eric Logan's death is Tuesday.

Logan was shot and killed by South Bend Police Sergeant Ryan O'Neill on June 16, 2019. Sgt O'Neill was not charged in the shooting, but is facing charges in an unrelated matter. O'Neill resigned from the department one month after the shooting.

"It's sad, it's sickening. Not just what happened then, but what is happening now. Any cop that thinks or relishes the idea that what we saw is acceptable needs to turn their badge in right now. And those who know an officer that feels that way, either tell us so we can take the badge from them," Chief Ruszkowski said.

Ruszkowski also said the department doesn't train officers to use the choke hold and they do not use it, but the current policy doesn't specifically say it cannot be used. That will be changed as the use of force policy is updated.

The chief highlighted a positive change within the department - an increase in the walking and talking patrols. Ruszkowski said they conducted over 12,000 of those patrols last year.

He said it's important the relationship building between the community and officers helps build mutual respect.

He ended with a plea for residents to get on the transparency hub and give feedback to the department. They want feedback to help improve the department and the city.

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