South Bend community gives feedback on police body camera policy

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — On Thursday, people at the Charles Black Center raised concerns about the body camera policy at the South Bend Police Department. 

“There seems like there’s a lot of ambiguity,” said one man. 

Another woman said the policy which was rolled out in February 2018 has too many gray areas. 

“Help me understand where we are and what page we're on as far as these body cams are concerned,” said one woman. 

The South Bend Board of Public Safety continued their public meetings to get ideas and feedback on a range of law enforcement issues. On Thursday, the group focused on the police department’s body camera policy which has received criticism after a fatal officer-involved shooting. 

“Our group felt there were a lot of gray areas in the policy,” said Cecilia Edwards, who lives in South Bend. 

The president of the board, other board members, and top officials within the police department ran through four scenarios an officer might find themselves in and asked small groups if the officer followed the department’s policy. 

Edwards’ group found no problems in any of the scenarios but said the scenarios were irrelevant. 

“None of the scenarios were akin to the real reason why we're here,” said Edwards. 

In June, former SBPD Sergeant Ryan O’Neill failed to turn on his body camera before fatally shooting theft suspect Eric Logan. Shortly after the shooting, SBPD Chief Scott Ruszkowski released a directive to officers by request of South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg stating in part: 

“Officers should activate their body cameras during all work-related interactions with civilians.”

According to a city official, the directive was a clarification of an existing policy.

“It wasn’t a change to the policy,” said Mark Bode, spokesperson for the City of South Bend. “It was a clarification to the policy as it was written.”

According to officials, the department has not changed the policy since rolling it out last year. However, officials said, the feedback that was given on Thursday, that will be brought to the Board of the Public Safety, can revise and strengthen the policy.

“It’s laying a foundation for trust between the Board of Public Safety, the City of South Bend, the police department and the community at large,” said Bode. 

Click here to read the full body camera policy.

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