Black faith community members have positive response to South Bend police reform proposal

By Erica Finke | WSBT 22 (Fox, Mishawaka/Michiana)
June 16, 2020

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South Bend Mayor James Mueller is making good on his promise to take on public safety reform.

He announced a couple action items Monday. One is a proposal to ban the use of choke holds, which will be in the updated Use of Force policy draft expected to come out in the next couple of weeks.

He also set a hopeful timeline to implement a police discipline matrix at the next Board of Public Safety meeting in July after public comment.

He says the group conducting an assessment of the police department will soon release policy, training, and accountability recommendations.

He also says he’s committed to creating a Citizens Review Board.

Members of groups who have been pushing for these changes — Faith in Indiana — say this is a step in the right direction.

Faith in Indiana members are hopeful. The group pushed for the police discipline matrix with former Mayor Pete Buttigieg last year.

Some of the members told WSBT they think Mayor Mueller’s message Monday is a turning point for the city’s black community.

Faith in Indiana held a Zoom meeting last Thursday with 20 of their members and Mayor James Mueller.

The members shared their experiences, listed new policy proposals and stressed the importance of the mayor’s leadership during this time.

The mayor says that a new discipline matrix will be released this week, and the police department will be banning chokeholds.

Ivy Butler, pastor with Power and Praise Crusade Ministry, says she feels good about these changes.

“It’s a step to moving forward and not just in the community, but in the nation, in the world, that change is now coming forth. So I think it’s a great day, a great opportunity, and we’re proud of our mayor.”

James Williams with Abundant Faith Family Ministry is hoping to create more trust between the South Bend Police Department and the black community. So they’re putting forward new policies to better align with the police department’s mission statement to serve and protect everyone in South Bend.

“We want to make sure that that mission statement is in a correlation with the policies of the South Bend Police Department. Once that happens, you’ll see transparency. You’ll start to experience more trust. But right now, it appears to be a disconnect.”

Alfred Guillaume, St. Augustine Catholic Church member, says he’s proud of the mayor’s leadership for pushing this agenda forward and is hopeful for more changes to come.

“What the mayor — I think — in this first step has done is sent a message to the black community and to all of our South Bend residents that he recognizes that the black people in this community have been in pain.”

Faith in Indiana is hoping to continue conversations with Mayor Mueller and the South Bend Common Council to create sustainable changes in South Bend.

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