Recruitment tweet from Mishawaka Mayor highlights retention issue at South Bend Police Department

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The South Bend Police Department is back in the spotlight. 

The department is facing questions about turnover on the police force after Mishawaka Mayor Dave Wood sent out the following tweet:

“We could happier with who we’ve recruited and who we’re retaining and the overall attitude of the police department,” said Assistant Chief Jason Stefaniak, with the Mishawaka Police Department. 

Asst. Chief Stefaniak said currently the department is currently fully staffed with 108 officers. He declined to comment on how many of those officers came from SBPD, but he told ABC 57 News that there is no animosity between the two departments. 

“We’re just looking for quality people to work at the Mishawaka police department,” said Stefaniak. 

In Elkhart, the police department finds itself with officers from South Bend, Kentucky, and even New Mexico. Lt. Travis Snider said they hire officers from all over the place. 

However, according to Snider, the department is still understaffed. Lt. Snider said the department embraces transfers. 

“It wasn’t necessarily pulling people from anywhere it's just to hire and retain,” said Snider. 

It’s common police departments nationwide will budget for vacancies due to retirements and in some cases resignations. The department did not respond to a request from ABC 57 to ask about the recent transfers.

Since 2016, South Bend has had 53 resignations and retirements. 

FOP #36 President Harvey Mills estimates a dozen transfers since the start of the year. In a statement he wrote:

“Today, we have 40 fewer police officers today than we did ten to fifteen years ago.

With fewer police officers on the streets and in the community, violent crime and shootings in South Bend are on the way up.

This proposed budget might get us a dozen new police officers over the next couple of years but we’ll still have 25 fewer cops than we used to.

This doesn’t take into account the wave of South Bend police officers who are retiring or leaving South Bend to go work elsewhere. We’ve got problems recruiting police officers and keeping the ones we have. Our new mayor has to fix that.”

He said the FOP agrees with Asst. Chief Stefaniak that there is no animosity between the two departments. 

“Absolutely we agree,” said Mills. “South Bend PD is still suffering of poor morale from several negative remarks and lack of public support from Mayor Buttigieg. It will take a long time for officers and the community to heal from that.  We are very hopeful we can have more support and a better relationship with the upcoming administration.”

After an officer-involved shooting this summer, Mayor Pete Buttigieg came under fire with the FOP. But in a statement to ABC 57, his office denies these claims. 

“Our office has met regularly with the FOP over the past several months to understand their concerns and find common ground as we seek to build a stronger department,” said Mark Bode, with the City of South Bend. “Mayor Buttigieg has publicly supported good police work throughout his time as mayor, and is committed to building trust between the department and the community through continued support.”

Right now, the city’s police department has 228 sworn officers. It was approved in 2019’s city budget for 240 officers. 

Recently, the city’s common council approved four more positions in 2020. 

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