South Bend Police tapes scandal goes to trial

NOW: South Bend Police tapes scandal goes to trial

MISHAWAKA, Ind.— The public could finally learn what the controversial South Bend Police tapes contain, 13 years after they were recorded.

A St. Joseph County Superior Court judge set a trial date for Nov. 20 to decide if the recordings, allegedly containing racist conversations among past police leaders, will be made public.

It will be a bench trial, which means no jury.

The news first broke in 2012, but 12 years later, questions are left unanswered.

The story was first reported by ABC57 after news that Police Chief Darryl Boykins, South Bend’s first Black police chief, was forced out of his seat by then-Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

The police communications director, Karen DePaepe, fired as well, with Buttigieg citing concerns over a federal investigation taking place.

It all goes back to recordings DePaepe heard on the internal phone system. There was a mix-up in phone lines and technology, she says, so she went through recordings to troubleshoot.

That's when she claims she heard what she calls racist, unethical, and maybe illegal comments.

To this day, we don't know what it on those tapes, they've never been released to the public.

In May of 2012, the northern Indiana US attorney's office essentially exonerated DePaepe and Boykins from any wrongdoing, and both later won settlements from the city.

But the outcry from the community never stopped, and for more than a decade, an extended legal battle ensued over whether to make the tapes public.

The Common Council tried to use its subpoena power, even going to the Indiana Supreme Court last year, but it declined to investigate.

Now, the content of the tapes could come to light later this year.

At-large council member Oliver Davis said he was the person on council at the time to call for a subpoena. Twelve years later, he calls this scandal the wound that's never healed.

"I wish it would have been done earlier, a decade ago, so that the people who were in South Bend at the time could have clarity. And that's really what we all needed, is clarity," Davis said.

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