New Elkhart Police Chief talks plans for change

ELKHART, Ind. - What is it like to start as a police chief during times like these?

The city of Elkhart has a new Chief of Police and he’s already discussing the independent review ordered last year, what changes he wants to see moving forward and how to repair the relationship between the community and police officers.

A lack of trust is something a lot of police stations are facing all over the country. Elkhart Police Department not excluded, especially after EPD officers were seen on video beating a man handcuffed to a chair.

But since then there have been policy changes, an outside review and now a new police chief ready to tackle some changes.

"We have to be able to adapt to that and like I said, evolve and try to be better and be willing to you know, accept fault," Elkhart Police Chief Kris Seymore said.

Police departments across the nation are facing criticism for excessive use of force. Here in Elkhart, that community distrust is nothing new. Especially after the 2018 incident showing EPD officers beating a handcuffed inmate.

An external review of the department’s policies showed there still can be change especially with use of force and de-escalation tactics. And the newly appointed chief of police is ready to tackle the issues.

“We're going to do better. We're going to be, we're going to be consistent, we're going to be fair, that's how I operate," Seymore said. 

Seymore is a 22-year veteran of EPD and recently worked in the homicide unit. He says one of his focuses lies with mental health.

“This is not an excuse for instances of excessive force or stepping out of line. But where does that come from?" he said. "In some of the behavior that we've seen, you know, this is in fact a very stressful job. I've experienced it myself, having done you know, half of my career in homicide there's a lot that you see," he continues. "That weighs on you. No one, no one comes into this job angry at the world and, you know, subject to fits of rage.”

Seymore said there needs to be a system in place to help officers with their mental health.

“I'm working towards that as we speak," he said. "With early, early, early warning signs that we can address before we have an incident like what happened in our detention or incidents that you see all over the country.”

And winning back trust with the community- another focus - especially after community members involved in the review of the department found that EPD had a reputation for “rough treatment of civilians, racial bias and inconsistent discipline.”

“I take that to heart. I don't think that that's that far off base. So we have some work to do on some of those areas," he said. "Change things for the better and not only keep our officers safe but the public safe. That's the end goal.”

ABC57 asked Chief Seymore about the police discipline matrix just approved in South Bend and if this could be a possibility here in Elkhart.

He said they are always open and if it’s something city officials want, they wouldn’t be opposed to it.

But he said the Elkhart Police Department will look different moving forward.

“I think people will see it a demonstrably different approach to how we, how we do things across the board," he said. "You have to be consistent with accountability across the board. That's what we expect the public that we deal with. And we have to show that within ourselves.”

As for the review done on the department, there will continue to be changes made.

“We're working on that as we speak. I mean, day one, I was looking at some of the policy changes in those fields. You know, those obviously have to go before our board of safety to be approved, but we're constantly tweaking those things to reflect how we want to move forward and some of that's was taken from this review and things that we can address and do better. And some of that was our own reflection," he said.

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