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SBPD ready for bigger events following peaceful protests

South Bend’s Police Department is receiving high praise after successfully keeping the peace during a record gathering downtown.

“I’ve been around here for 26 years and I’ve never been more proud of the police department than i was Monday,” said Jeff Rynearson, SBPD Division Chief.

Wednesday, the department’s division chief said he’s confident the city can take on more high-profile events.

“We weren’t entirely sure what to expect,” said Rynearson. “We wanted to plan for the worst and hope for the best.”

Rynearson looked back on what could’ve been another Costa Mesa, California situation.

The city saw violent protests against Donald Trump, just days before his scheduled visit to South Bend.

“We looked at what can be my worst case scenario and planned accordingly,” said Rynearson.

But Monday was a very different scenario.

There were still quite a few large crowds, but no major incidents.

Rynearson says that’s because his officers used dialog before using force.

“How the police handles those situations, can really dictate whether or not it stays a positive environment and a protected environment or sometimes it can escalate to the next level,” he said.

SBPD deployed 50 officers to handle the situation, and an estimated $30,000 in overtime pay, the department says was well worth it.

But police had experience with controlling large crowds.

Back in May, more than 10,000 celebrated the city’s 150th anniversary.

And for a few years, several thousand participated in the annual Bike the Bend event.

Monday, though, was different.

Anywhere from 6,000 to 12,000 folks were in one area and quite a few were upset.

But after handling a potentially bad situation with ease, morale is high for the city’s next challenge.

“If we have a game plan, we stick with the game plan, we’re professional, we can handle just about anything and I’m convinced after this week, we can handle just about anything,” said Rynearson.

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