South Bend mayor, police chief speak on recruitment efforts

NOW: South Bend mayor, police chief speak on recruitment efforts

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — On Thursday, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg announced 270 people have started their application to join the city police department. 

According to city data, the breakdown of the applicants by race and gender is as follows: 

  • White, 40 percent, 
  • Black, 16 percent,
  • Latino or Hispanic, 12 percent, 
  • And no answer, 25 percent. 

According to the police department, there are currently 242 sworn officers. The racial breakdown of the department is as follows:

  • 88 percent white,
  • 5.4 percent black,
  • And 4.9 percent Hispanic. 

Mayor Buttigieg said the racial breakdown of people applying to the police force does not mirror that of the community. He said the numbers reflect that the city has more work to do.

“We’re making sure the entire community is aware of the urgency of building the department,” said Mayor Buttigieg.

At a press conference on Thursday, the Mayor and South Bend Chief of Police Scott Ruszkowski asked the community to act as recruiters and encourage people they think are qualified to join the police force. The South Bend Police Department is accepting applications until August 12, click here to apply. 

FOP #36 President Harvey Mills said recruiting candidates from the community is a priority. However, he said officer morale is also a problem within the department. 

“Morale is super low right now,” Mills said. 

Mills and Mayor Buttigieg met to talk about the concerns of officers. On Thursday, Mayor Buttigieg said officers around the country are facing scrutiny and that community relations are strained.

Mills said understaffing at the police department is adding to the morale problem. Chief Ruszkowski is set to present the 2020 budget for the police department in August, but he did not say at the press conference what the budget would entail. 

Next spring, the police union will begin negotiations with the department on a new collective bargaining agreement, which details pay and benefits for officers. Mayor Buttigieg claims the department has competitive pay and attractive benefits, however, Mills disagrees.

“Adding pay would help,” he said. “We’ve really got to find a way to stand out.”

Out of the SBPD applications people have started, 111 are complete. Mayor Buttigieg said there is a problem, especially in communities of color, where people don’t want to work in law enforcement because they do not trust the police. 

At a prayer vigil for Eric Logan, whose death has caused these conversations to start, a family friend said there is distrust but being a police officer is tough.

“I encourage anybody to fill out that application,” Vernado Malone said. 

Chief Ruszkowski sent a challenge to the community on Thursday.

“What can we do to help them it’s just that simple,” said Ruszkowski. 

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