SBPD shares success with procedure and policy updates

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The South Bend Police Department is changing with the times.

On Thursday the department shared its polished-up policies and procedures over the last four years, following recommendations by 21CP, a firm that helps law enforcement agencies deliver effective and constitutional policing.

Both the chief of police and mayor say it’s allowed the department to become more dynamic and efficient in responding to the community’s evolving needs. 

“We are pleased to say we have gotten through almost all of the recommendations and successfully been able to implement them here in South Bend,” says Mayor James Mueller.

They say they’ve already implemented 85% of the 54 recommendations from 21CP. 

South Bend Police Chief Scott Ruszkowski says a key improvement has been updating its use of force policy; clearly prohibiting chokeholds, emphasizing de-escalation, and clarifies deadly force as a last resort.  

The firm's recommendations are also to help the department update internal procedures like paperwork.   

“Our use of force reports used to be separate from an incident report,” explains Division Chief Dan Skibins. “With the help of IT, that was added to the incident report, so they automatically had to fill that out if they check the box that force was used.” 

Along with record-high staffing levels, a clearer understanding of mental health crises, and a competitive recruiting program, Chief Ruszkowski says their most successful aspect has been community engagement. 

“Our community has the stake in all of this because that’s what we’re contending with, people in our community,” Chief Ruszkowski says.

The department now holds monthly crime stat meetings, and it's adding community resource officers to the team, who serve on the front lines of community-police relations. 

One long term goal still in the works though is the forming of the community police review board. 

“There’s a balance between efficiency and speed, versus making sure they’re getting it right and getting everyone on board,” explains Mayor Mueller.

The nine-person board, meant to serve as an avenue for police oversight, has been in the works for more than three years.

However, it's made some headway with the appointing of its director, Pastor Charles King Jr. in April, who the chief says is already off to a promising start. 

“He’s got a really good idea, at least from my perspective, of how we do things internally, but the rest is going to be thrown in his lap,” Chief Ruszkowski says.

Mayor James Mueller says we could hear more about the board and possible appointments in a few weeks.

On the City of South Bend’s website, you can find SBPD’s full presentation outlining the updates, as well as a detailed layout of their policing practices.


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