Outside firm releases recommendations to reform SBPD

SOUTH BEND, Ind. - A study looking into the South Bend Police Department has been released. The Chicago-based firm 21CP was hired by the city to look into the department's policies after the officer-involved shooting of car break-in suspect Eric Logan last June.

There were 6 areas the firm focused on. Everything from the use of force and bias-free policing to accountability and community engagement.

$180,000 dollars later and Chicago-based firm 21CP has released their findings into policies at the SBPD. The 6 main areas of focus include the use of force and deescalation, body cameras, bias-free policing, accountability, community engagement and  participation and officer well-being, recruitment, retention & developing the narrative

Under the use of force, the study encouraged the department to clarify whether the use of force is reasonable, necessary, and proportional to the nature of the threat as well as adopt a stand-alone policy on de-escalation encouraging officers to take this approach whenever safe and feasible to do so.

The study also wants the department to look into an over-reliance on stun weapons like tasers and whether the use is justified. It also includes annual training's on the use of force and de-escalation, focusing on de-escalation rather than using force.

Another area the study focused on is body cameras. The study wants the department to clarify the policy – right now it leaves officers with some discretion on whether they should activate it or not.

The report also recommends a disciplinary matrix that would hold officers accountable for any misconduct, something that the city is already trying to implement.

The study also suggests expanding community policing. And the last part looks ats tarting an early intervention system that would look for problematic performance trends from officers before there are actual problems.

Community leaders have mixed reactions.

"There was a lot of overlap with the plan I put out for reform and public safety last fall during the campaign so a lot of these are things are things we thought we needed to make progress on and are the next steps to reform.," Mayor James Mueller said. "Many of these things are already planned or in the process of being worked on and now we just have to figure out how to prioritize and get these things done.”

"A lot of the things that were mentioned, the south bend police department are doing. We’ve been reviewing our body camera policy, we’ve been reviewing our use of force policy, we do implicit bias training. We do a lot of the that were mentioned we do community-oriented policing. We already do it," Officer Joshua Morgan the Vice President of the Fraternal Order of Police said.

"There’s certainly been a lot of discussion with these things not even just within the city or police department but even among community members have been calling for this for over a decade," Jorden Giger, a member of Black Lives Matter South Bend said. "We certainly support a lot of the recommendations that have been put forth but we know that we need to make sure that the city follows through with those recommendations.”

Giger said he is skeptical that change will really occur and says that defunding the police and putting that money into different avenues like hiring a violence interventionist or peacekeepers with no connection to the police department is what should happen.

Everyone is looking for some change in the department but funding may be a huge barrier to actually getting these recommendations implemented.

"They took that report and they didn’t take into consideration our staffing, they didn’t take into consideration funding. A lot of the things that they did mention, it costs a lot of money and it does take manpower," Morgan said.

Morgan said some of the ideas would be great in a perfect world but, for example, taking an officer off patrol to do community policing on a bicycle is just not feasible with limited officers. Now, the study did mention the problem of funding and hiring and ways to help recruit and retain officers.

Morgan also mentioned that they are already doing a lot of the recommendations on the report such as reviewing body camera and the use of force policies as well as already doing implicit-bias training. But he said that the department is always looking to improve going forward.
Mayor Mueller is optimistic that there will soon be solid changes.

“Change in any sort of level is not always the easiest thing to achieve and you got to stick with it so when you see, if you look at the report and there are all these recommendations it can be overwhelming like where do we start and where do we go from here but the good news is there is a lot of things that were recommended that are already underway, the common council is exploring different options for the civilian review board, we’re looking to send out an updated the use of force policy and the discipline matrix is hopefully to be adopted by the board of public safety next week," he said.

The Board of Public Safety is meeting Thursday to discuss the police discipline matrix and is supposed to vote on it next week.

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